Maranacook coach Eric Brown knew the Black Bears success this season would depend on the development of their pitching staff. Now as the Black Bears hit the halfway point, the staff are starting to come around.

“The pitching staff is coming together,” Brown said. “We didn’t have a preseason so it’s taken a little time to get into rhythm. We’ve won three of our last four.”

Senior Zach Elwell is the team’s No. 1 pitcher and has thrown two complete games in a row.

“He mixes his speeds up well and has a little zip on his fastball and a decent curveball,” Brown said.

Junior Skylar Webb has also had two quality starts in a row in a loss to Gardiner and win over Maine Central Institute. Senior Kevin Johnson and junior Cody Lyon are splitting duties for the third spot in the rotation.

Sophomore Cam Brochu has emerged as one of the top power hitters in the Class B division of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference. He hit three home runs in his first four games, including a tape-measure shot at Nokomis.

“That would have been out of any park in the majors,” Brown said. “It hit in the upper part of the trees beyond the fence.”

The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Brochu has continued to hit well despite not homering of late.

“I tell him not to try to hit home runs,” Brown said. “For the most part he’s trying to meet the ball and just drive it.” Seniors Tucker Whitman and Carson Dalheim and junior Nick Lacasse have also hit well.

Brown continues to handle 24 varsity and junior varsity players without an assistant. He has a parent who comes to half the games and coaches first base, but is otherwise on his own. He takes about 18 players to the varsity games.

“We have some freshmen who have been contributing,” he said, citing Vinnie Birtwell, Jason Brooks, Kent Mohlar and Jeriah Caissie.

• • •

Erskine coach Lars Jonassen has put a positive spin on the season despite his team’s 2-6 record. The Eagles will drop to Class B next season but instead of disparaging his time in Class A, Jonassen has embraced it.

“I’m going to miss being in Class A,” he said. “We’ve been treated really well and it’s a great division of baseball. It’s well-coached and competitive.”

Erskine turned in a strong season last year, reaching the tournament with 11 seniors, seven of whom were starters and five who have gone on to play college baseball. Many of this year’s seniors sat on the bench last year behind that group.

“I have a lot of respect for our seniors who have hung in there,” Jonassen said. “They waited their turn.”

Senior John Suga did see playing time last year, starting at second base, but this year has moved behind the plate for the first time since junior high. He’s hitting around .350 and has thrown out seven runners.

“(He) was an all-KVAC second baseman and he was willing to move to catcher because we didn’t have one,” Jonassen said. “He’s had a minimal amount of passed balls. The younger kids love throwing to him.”

Seniors Shawn Soucie, Nick Gayer, Josh Bailey and Jeff Pulver have also taken over prominent roles on the team and played well.

• • •

Hall-Dale coach Tim Johnson has juggled his pitching rotation, after a mid-season assessment that found the Bulldogs issuing too many walks, hitting too many batters and committing too many errors.

“That was before we even added up the hits,” Johnson said. “We made a decision. We sort of retooled the rotation.”

Catcher Matt Plourde is now part of that rotation. He pitched a strong game Monday against unbeaten St. Dom’s which the Bulldogs led late but lost in extra innings. He is also installing shortstop Nat Crocker into the pitching rotation.

“I’m reluctant to use my catcher or my shortstop,” Johnson said. “But both Nat and Matt throw strikes.”

• • •

Oak Hill coach Matt Bray took senior pitcher Ryan Riordan off the mound Friday after he felt some elbow tightness. Riordan, who transferred from Lisbon for his final year, threw a no-hitter in his first game and is one of the top pitchers in the Mountain Valley Conference.

“We’re just being very, very careful with him,” Brady said. “We’re going to wait on him until Saturday at home against Dirigo. That’s a really big game for us.”

The Raiders were 4-3 heading into Wednesday’s game at Hall-Dale. Their three losses have been by a combined total of four runs.

“What I’ve been impressed with is (Riordan’s) been down and the other kids are stepping up,” Bray said, noting the team’s earned run average is under 2.00.

Sam Morin and Parker Asselin have both pitched well for the Raiders and shortstop Brady Dion is hitting over .500.

“He’s been smashing the baseball,” Bray said.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

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