Houlton baseball falls just short of title

8 years ago

BANGOR, Maine — Hopes for a perfect season came to an end Tuesday, June 14, for the Houlton baseball team.

No. 2 Houlton (18-1 overall) battled back from an early 5-0 deficit after the first three innings, only to see its one-run lead slip away in the bottom of the seventh as No. 1 George Stevens Academy (18-1) rallied for a dramatic 8-9 win at Mansfield Stadium.

In what turned out to be a marathon three-hour baseball game to decide the Class C North champs, No. 2 Houlton scraped and clawed its way back into the title game.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the guys,” Houlton coach James Castner said. “They played their hearts out and we could have won that game. We made too many mistakes in the first inning, but our offense did a nice job getting us back into it.”

Sophomore Cameron Graham and junior Nick Botting led the offensive charge for Houlton, each with a double, single and run scored. Sophomore Morgan Phillips had two singles and scored a run, while senior Billy Phillips and sophomore Zach Hagan both had one single.

Bekett Slayton led GSA with three singles, while Jacob Keenan and Tyler McKenney each had two hits.

Graham started the game on the mound for the Shires and pitched 2 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on six hits, one walk and one hit batter, with one strikeout. Ryan Dee tossed 3 2/3 innings, scattering two runs on three hits, two walks and three hit batters, with two strikeouts. Billy Phillips pitched 2/3 innings of relief, giving up one hit.

GSA also used three pitchers as Slayton pitched 4 2/3 innings, yielding six runs on six hits, one walk and one hit batter, with four strikeouts. Taylor Schildroth tossed 1 2/3 innings allowing two runs on two hits and two walks, with one strikeout. Dakota Chipman closed out the game allowing no runs, no hits and two walks, with three strikeouts.

“GSA was the best overall team I’ve faced as a varsity coach,” Castner said. “We put up more runs on them in that one game then they had given up in any game all season. Once we showed what our offense was capable of, that put pressure on them and we almost made it costly.”

After spotting the Eagles a 5-0 lead, Houlton finally got on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth inning, plating three runs on hits by Botting and Graham to make it a 5-3 game. GSA, however, scored twice in the bottom of the fourth to push the lead to 7-3.

Houlton’s defense then took over, keeping the Eagles off the scoreboard until the fateful final inning.

Houlton scored three more runs in the top of the fifth inning, cutting the lead to 7-6, and took the first lead of the game in the top of the sixth inning as Connor Grant drew a lead-off walk and moved to second on a single by Morgan Phillips. Nick Perfitt then drew a walk to load the bases with no outs.

Thomas Prescott grounded to the shortstop, who decided to go home with the throw. But the throw was off the mark and went to the backstop allowing Grant and Morgan Phillips to score for the 8-7 lead.

Following a strikeout, Billy Phillips was intentionally walked to load the bases. Botting flared a pop foul behind first base that the GSA second baseman was able to race down for the second out and Perfitt was thrown out at the plate trying to score on the play.

After Dee retired the side in order in the bottom of the sixth, Houlton again threatened to break open the game in the top of the seventh. Zach Hagan blasted a lead-off single to left field and was lifted for Isia Bouchard as a pinch runner. Graham drew a walk and then following a pair of strikeouts, Perfitt drew a walk to load the bases. All three were left stranded as the next batter struck out.

In the bottom of the seventh, errors picked an inopportune time to come into play for the Shires. Stefan Simmons dropped a bunt and reached base as the throw to the bag was off the mark. Tyler McKenney followed with another bunt single. Marshal Lebel grounded into a fielder’s choice and Tyler Snow reached base on yet another bunt by the Eagles, allowing Simmons to score.

After the next batter popped up to the catcher, Slayton produced the game-winning hit as he beat out a ground ball to the shortstop, allowing Lebel to score the winning run.

“Considering we had a roster of 13 and seven are underclassmen, we had an incredible season,” Castner said. “The guys and I are having a hunger already for next year. Missing Ryan, Billy and Connor will be tough, but I will have nine returning players that all have deep playoff experience.”