Saturday was no day at the beach, but that didn’t prevent high school baseball and softball teams from getting outside.

Temperatures were in the high 30s with a biting wind here in central Maine, but as Monmouth baseball coach Eric Palleschi said, “the good thing was the sun was out. It was beating right into our dugout.”

Monmouth scrimmaged for 12 innings at Winslow and cold or not, it was nice to get outside.

“Pitchers were able to throw and face different hitters than they’ve seen all spring,” Palleschi said. “It’s better than being in the gym, just to see live balls off the bat, get a jump on a fly ball and have some baserunners.”

The teams were tied after eight innings of varsity play and continued the final few innings with junior varsity players. Winslow finished on top, 3-1. Both teams are expected to contend in their respective conferences, Winslow in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Monmouth in the Mountain Valley Conference.

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Many fields in central Maine are ready for play or close to it. That’s not the case in the Western Maine mountains where a lot of snow fell this winter.

“Last week I could start to see the mound coming through,” Forest Hills baseball coach Mike LeBlanc said. “(Saturday) morning we had a light dusting of snow and it was 17 degrees.”

Last year, the field at the Jackman school was clear before April vacation but there’s still a foot of snow on it in some spots and 4 or 5 inches in most places. The Tigers play their first couple of games on the road, but conditions may not be much better since they play in Bingham and Greenville. The first home game is scheduled April 30.

The Tigers have a couple of good returning pitchers but only 12 players on their team, including three eighth graders. School enrollment is listed at 53 students but that didn’t stop the Tigers from claiming their first boys basketball championship last month.

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Long-time high school umpire Phil St. Onge retired last week after working 33 years behind the plate and on the bases.

“It’s time,” he said. “I’ve been at it a long time. I didn’t have the fire to do it anymore.”

St. Onge also umpired college games for 15 years before stepping away about a dozen years ago.

“The guys I got a chance to work with were great,” he said. “I had a lot of fun with it. Chappy (Nelson) and I did a thousand games together.”

St. Onge works in administration at Nokomis High School and said it’s difficult to umpire for most people because games are played in the afternoon.

“Unless you’re a school teacher it’s hard to get out of work to do those games,” he said.

Not only are baseball games played in cold weather early in the season, there isn’t any time limit and some can last more than three hours.

“I (officiated) basketball for the first time (last winter),” St. Onge said. “What a difference. It was kind of a new challenge for me.”

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Waterville softball coach Meaghan Donnell is fresh out of college and intent on teaching her players the mental side of the game this season. The Purple Panthers went winless last season but had 27 players go out for the team, including an experienced pitcher.

“My goal this year is just to teach them more of a mental game,” Donnell said. “If we get the mental part down and the fundamentals, the wins will come with it.”

Donnell graduated last May from the University of Maine at Farmington where she played catcher and second base, Prior to that she was a catcher for four years at Spaulding High School in Rochester, N.H.

Another goal of Donnell’s is to get a summer program started in Waterville for older players.

“I’d like to get a U-16 or U-18 team started,” she said.

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The Cony girls tennis team hired an experienced coach and certified instructor in Wilbur Shardlow, who runs camps, clinics and provides tennis services. He’s the only master racket technician in the state but more important to the Rams, Shardlow is an experienced coach.

He coached at Spruce Mountain last year and prior to that many years at Winthrop where he led the boys and girls teams to several Western Maine titles and one state championship each.

“I just retired from teaching so now I have the opportunity to go wherever I want,” Shardlow said. “I love doing this. I have the greatest kids. I still have a ton of fun.”

This year, Shardlow has 40 girls on his team, 14 of those on the varsity and the rest on the JVs. He credits a lot of the interest in the program to former coach Carol Patenaude, who stepped down after seven years as head coach.

“I’ve never been a proponent of a cut system,” he said. “It is a lifetime sport. They might not be on the varsity but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy it for the rest of their lives.”

Shardlow said lining up junior varsity matches is difficult because many schools don’t have JV teams. He has a couple already, with Mt. Blue and Kents Hill, and is looking for more. The Rams also have scrimmages lined up this week with Hall-Dale, Winthrop and Gardiner. Shardlow would like to see the seven area high schools band together and form a summer league.

“To me the real development of a player is done from June to October,” he said.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

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