BY GARY HAWKINS
Sonja Morse looked near mid-season form Monday on the first day high school pitchers and catchers were allowed to report for practice.
The Cony High School senior fired mostly fastballs and changeups, many that resembled those she threw last June in shutting out South Portland for the Class A state softball championship. Morse threw twice during the week in the off-season and on Sundays practiced at Portland’s Frozen Ropes facility.
She’ll use this week for “basically getting my pitches up to where they should be.” In all, three pitchers and three catchers took part in the practice although a total of 10 are allowed. Practices for all spring sports begin next Monday with the first countable date for games, matches or meets on April 11.
Morse, who has already signed a letter of intent to play the Division II UMass-Lowell next year, is one of two strong pitchers for the Rams.
Sophomore Arika Brochu saw plenty of action last season and is expected to pitch even more this year.
“It’s a big relief, just in case I have a bad game she can come in,” Morse said. “We’ll probably split (time on the mound).”
Cony’s coaches, including head coach Rocky Gaslin, were on hand for the sessions that was being videotaped. Also in attendance was former Cony coach Paul Rodrigue, who is the school’s junior varsity coach this season. Rodrigue has an extensive resume that includes softball coaching jobs at several high schools and colleges and has conducted hundreds of clinics.
“I (worked with him) a couple of summers ago and it helped tremendously,” Morse said. “Like my mental game is at its peak and he helped me a lot.”
Unlike softball, pitching a baseball puts a lot more strain on the arm and practices are restricted to eight pitchers and two catchers. The full complement showed up at Gardiner for Coach Chris McLaughlin.
“The biggest reason is to get pitchers in shape to prevent further injury to their throwing arms,” McLaughlin said. “I wish we had two weeks instead of one.”
McLaughlin invited a few freshmen in, too, because the varsity graduated two starters, and last year a freshman, Josh McElvey, took a spot in the rotation despite not participating in pitchers and catchers week.
Some of his pitchers have been throwing throughout the winter, McLaughlin said, but all will be monitored closely and placed on appropriate pitch counts. He also added the coaches watch them closely to make sure they don’t hurt themselves.
“They’re high school kids and they like to throw as hard as they can all the time,” he said. “We have to pull them back a little.”
The Tigers had two catchers on hand, including senior Jensen Orewiler.
“The main reason we bring the catchers is so the pitchers have someone to throw to,” McLaughlin said. “But they throw a lot, too. It’s important to get their arms in shape.”
Gary Hawkins — 621-5638