By GARY HAWKINS
Wednesday’s violent collision between Cony baserunner Reid Shostak and Messalonskee catcher Trevor Gettig raised a few questions concerning high school rules about sliding into home plate.
Here’s what happened. Shostak attempted to advance to third on a short passed ball. Gettig retrieved the ball and fired to third. When the ball skipped into left field, Shostak headed to the plate. The throw from left reached Gettig a few feet up the line in front of home plate just as Shostak arrived, and the two collided.
Shostak was called out despite the fact that Gettig never secured the ball to tag him out, and by rule he was ejected from the game.
Cony coach Don Plourde questioned umpire Jeff Mertzel about the ruling.
“I understand the rule but at the same time it’s a bang-bang play at home plate,” Plourde said. “The catcher doesn’t have the ball yet. You’re supposed to avoid contact, I get it. At the same time … he’s 10 feet up the line; that’s why I questioned it. Obviously, my first concern is for the player who’s laying on the ground but at the same time I questioned whether it warranted an ejection.”
The high school rule, Mertzel said, is that the runner has to make an attempt to avoid the tag. That also includes if the catcher is up the baseline too far away for the runner to slide.
“In high school baseball you can’t run a player over,” Mertzel said. “If the (catcher) is standing there and blocking his path to the plate, the (runner) has to go around him.”
Mertzel added if the runner went around a catcher and slipped and fell or was otherwise tagged out, obstruction could be called and the run would count.
“You’ve got to avoid the player and avoid the contact,” Mertzel said. “If the throw takes the catcher into the (runner’s) path, then the play is OK.”
Gettig was down for five minutes after the collision and was later checked for concussion symptoms by the school trainer.
“We thought he was doing OK until (Thursday) morning,” Messalonskee coach Ray Bernier. “He woke up a little sore with a headache and was a little foggy. He actually got sent home.”
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Bernier learned Tuesday night that junior pitcher/first baseman Nick Mayo was leaving the team to pursue his basketball career.
“He let me know it was a hard decision,” Bernier said. “He has a commitment with his AAU team going out of state. That would not work well for both sides. I credit him for making such a big decision because he still does like the game.”
Mayo had pitched in preseason and looked sharp.
“We were excited about it because he was coming in healthy,” Bernier said of the 6-foot-7 left-hander.
Bernier said Mayo’s fastball in the upper 70s and low 80s and he has a good curve and was working on a splitter.
“With his size and length he’s right on top of the batter,” the coach said.
Arm problems prevented Mayo from taking a regular spot in the rotation last year, but he came around during the team’s run to the state championship game. Junior Jake Dexter, who was scheduled to be the team’s closer, will take over Mayo’s spot in the rotation while Josh Casey and Connor Garland will pitch in relief. Casey, a sophomore lefty, already has two wins this season and has picked two runners off base.
“He knows how to locate and change the location,” Bernier said.
Zach Mathieu, who had been playing left field, is expected to move to first base.
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Cony coach Don Plourde was concerned he might not have enough pitching this year, but the Rams got a pair of unexpected bonuses in seniors Mitchell Bonenfant and Payton Kennison.
Bonenfant played as a freshman but spent the next two years away from the game. “I kind of missed it, I guess,’ Bonenfant said. “I’m having a blast.”
Bonenfant also went out for football last fall and was a key member of the Rams’ state championship team. When he doesn’t pitch he plays first base. He made his debut as a starter Monday against Skowhegan (a 3-1 loss) and didn’t allow an earned run.
“He was great,” Plourde said. “He was ahead of 70 percent of the hitters and he was hitting his spots with his off-speed pitch. He retired 12 in a row at one point.”
Kennison transfered from Spruce Mountain where he played for four years. Last year he was one of team’s top pitchers and hitters. He’s pitched and hit well so far despite his 0-2 record.
“He’s been pretty solid,” Plourde said.
Kennison allowed five runs in the first inning in Wednesday’s 6-1 loss to Messalonskee, but bounced back after that.
“He threw 32 pitches in the first inning and 44 over the next four,” Plourde said. “He responded and did his job.”
Kennison said he’s seen a difference between Class B and Class A so far.
“It’s a lot more intense,” he said. “Just the whole game is different and moves a lot quicker.”