Who would have thunk it?
Lisbon, the last baseball program standing in Section 10 and one of only four remaining Class D teams in New York state, wasn’t even in the lineup for the past two seasons.
The program’s revival was a triumphant return, to say the least, and the season of renewal will climax in the state final four.
The Golden Knights rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning for a 5-4 win over Section 7 champion Schroon Lake-Bolton in the North Regional finals last Saturday and advanced into the state semifinals.
The Golden Knights (13-3), who feature nine freshmen, one eighth-grader and only one senior, produced the school’s initial final four appearance in any sport boys or girls.
The Knights, coached by Dave Gravlin and Darren LaRock, will look to add a another chapter to their historic season when they will play Section 6 (Buffalo area) champion Brocton (9-7) today at 2 p.m. at MacArthur Park in Binghamton, looking to advance to Saturday’s 1 p.m. championship game at Union-Endicott High School.
The other semifinal will pit Section 2 champion Whitehall and Section 4 champion South Kortright.
The Golden Knights’ 8-2 win over second-ranked Heuvelton in the Section 10 title game lifted Lisbon to a No. 4 state ranking and Brocton, which stood sixth in last week’s rankings, eliminated top-ranked Honeoye of Section 5 by a 6-4 score.
Ron Brown struck out 18 batters, including nine of the first 11, pitching Brocton to the final four for a second straight year and delivered three hits at the plate.
Brown also hurled a 1-0 win over Sherman-Clymer in the Section 6 title game.
Whitehall rolled past Livingston Manor, 21-0, and South Kortright cruised past McGraw, 13-0.
Senior Austin Bleau, who previously played at Canton through a merger agreement the past two seasons, was the only player on the Lisbon team who had played varsity baseball.
But coach Gravlin felt that the arrival of the Knights in the postseason was a matter of his underclassmen drawing strength and poise from big game experience at the youth levels and a smooth transition to the high school ranks through the modified ranks.
“Starting the season I really felt that we were one year away, but when we beat Heuvelton, I knew that we were here,” Gravlin said.
“Our younger guys have been a lot of big games in youth baseball tournaments against some very good competition. We have played teams from Montreal and even Chicago and when our guys were a U10 (under age 10) team they often played against U12 teams. We have a lot of good hitters on this team, including guys that didn’t start today.”
The Knights also have a very unique strength with two pitchers in hard-throwing right-hander Ben LaRock and crafty left-hander Griffin Walker with proven stopper ability.
LaRock owns a 3-2 record with 61 strikeouts against 33 walks, and Walker stands at 7-1 with one win as a starter and two in relief in the postseason, and has struck out 33 while walking only nine.
Collin Parmeter, Issac LaRock, Jackson LaRock and Storm Walker all stand at 1-0.
Griffin Walker pitched a complete-game win over Heuvelton in the Section 10 title game and pitched a scoreless top of the seventh inning against Schroon Lake-Bolton after Ben LaRock had struck out 11 through six innings.
“Ben’s pitch count was getting up there so we went to Griff, which we do all the time,” Gravlin said.
“We have a team which just won’t quit. We battle for key hits and we have great pitching,” said Trent Williams, who was honored as a Second Team All-NAC West selection along with Griffin Walker.
Ben and Issac LaRock were both NAC West Division First Team selections.