It happens every spring here in Maine. We’re talking about rain and high school baseball and the two are seldom compatible.

Rainouts lead to backed up games and put a strain on high school pitchers who are limited by Maine Principals’ Association rules in the number of innings they can pitch. Gardiner coach Chris McLaughlin has relied on four pitchers so far and they’ve come through with four complete games.

Two of those came from an unexpected source, freshman Josh McKelvey.

“He’s bailed us out,” McLaughlin said. “He’s got three or four pitches he can choose from and he wants to pitch.”

Seniors Aaron Toman and Josh Ouellette also start while McLaughlin is using Dennis Meehan in relief. McKelvey, Toman and Ouellette aren’t particularly hard throwers and all three are around the plate. They offer a sharp contrast to the hard-throwing Meehan.

“You bring Dennis in at the end of a game it’s a big adjustment,” McLaughlin said. “I’m using Dennis more as a closer because he’s very valuable at short. He may have to start with all the rainouts.”

The Tigers (6-2) are starting to hit. Meehan belted a grand slam against Mt. View and Jake Palmer had four singles in a recent game, but their bread and butter, as McLaughlin puts it, has been their defense. The most runs they’ve allowed is eight in a loss to Leavitt and they’ve held four of their opponents to one run or less.

“We’re averaging one error a game,” McLaughlin said.

• • •

Winthrop is rolling along at 4-2 after pulling out a 3-2 win against Spruce Mountain on Wednesday. The host Phoenix had the tying run on second after Eli Capen doubled to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning. Winthrop coach Marc Fortin made a pitching change, taking starter Tyler Foster out after 97 pitches and replacing him with soft-throwing freshman Ben Allen.

Foster returned to his catching position and threw Capen out at third base when he tried to steal on Allen’s first pitch. Allen took care of the rest by striking out the final two batters.

The Ramblers played errorless ball and threw a runner out at the plate with the infield drawn in.

“We made some pressure plays,” Fortin said. “We made the plays we had to make.”

• • •

Oak Hill is young and learning and has yet to win a game, but little of that blame can be placed on senior pitcher Josh Martin. Monday, Martin struck out 19 Mt. View batters through eight innings before coming out of the game.

He allowed four hits and struck out the side in the eighth, leaving with the teams tied at 2.

“Josh was in control right from the get-go,” Oak Hill coach Pete Dennis said. “Going into the fifth he gave up two walks and a couple of hits.”

Oak Hill eventually lost, giving up five runs in the 10th. Pitcher Adam Higgins went the distance for Mt. View. After the game, Martin, who is headed to Division II Franklin Pierce to play baseball next year, ran from foul pole to foul pole 26 times.

“He’s a horse,” Dennis said. “He’s got a mindset, physically and mentally.”

Martin pitched a compete game and fanned 11 in a 3-1 loss to Gardiner earlier this season, but hasn’t had much run support.

“A lot of unearned runs,” Dennis said. “Each game we’ve gotten better and Josh has lugged us. He’s been a real leader.”

Dennis has been pleased with the progress of freshman catcher Jake Bannister, who leads the team in batting average.

• • •

Catching is the toughest defensive position to play and it’s rare a freshman breaks into the lineup behind the plate, especially in the Class A division of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference. But Tayler Carrier has made a seamless transition form middle school to the high school varsity team for Cony.

He has a very strong arm and isn’t afraid to use it. He’s already thrown runners out at every base, including twice at first.

“People tried to run on him early,” Cony coach Don Plourde said. “He threw people out and (they) have really cut back. The thing is he will throw the ball at any given time.”

Carrier is batting fourth and producing, too, but it’s his defense that stands out so far. He calls about three percent of the pitches, Plourde said, and has a strong glove.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

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