WATERVILLE — Both Winslow and Waterville expect to be contenders in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B this season, but both teams would like to forget their pitching performance in Wednesday’s season opener, a 10-9 Winslow win.

Neither team worked a one-two-three inning the entire game. A trio of Winslow pitchers walked a dozen Waterville batters while hitting three. Waterville’s trio of pitchers walked five while plunking three, and also surrendered a dozen hits, all singles.

Winslow coach Aaron Wolfe attributed his pitchers’ struggles to the lack of time pitching from a real mound in the short preseason, as well as early season jitters.

“With the quick preseason, it’s kind of expected,” Wolfe said. “You want your pitchers not to give up many freebies like that, but it was kind of both ways. The last inning, it was definitely nerves.”

Waterville coach Don Sawyer also blamed the lack of mound sharpness on the short preseason. Like many teams in the area, Waterville only recently was able to get on its field after a snowy winter.

“Our kids have thrown off of one mound so far. We hadn’t even been able to be out here on our mound practicing. That’s kind of tough,” Sawyer said.

The Black Raiders and Purple Panthers are both back in action Friday. Winslow hosts Maine Central Institute at 1 p.m. Waterville hosts Nokomis at 4 p.m. in a game that was originally scheduled as a home game for Nokomis.

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Messalonskee had the exact opposite opening day pitching performance on Wednesday, with sophomore Josh Jay and junior Connor Garland combining on a one-hit shutout in a 4-0 win over Skowhegan.

Joy started and went five innings, allowing the one hit in the bottom of the fifth. Joy threw a first pitch strike to 12 of the 16 hitters he faced, Messalonskee coach Peter McLaughlin said.

“He really pounded the strike zone,” McLaughlin said.

Since Wednesday’s opener was moved to Skowhegan to allow Messalonskee’s low-lying field more time to dry, the Eagles will open the season with four consecutive road games. They’ll play at Lawrence on Friday, before games at Mt. Ararat and Lewiston next week. Messalonskee is scheduled to play its home opener on May 4 against Mt. Blue. Counting Wednesday’s game, the Eagles have been outside four times, McLaughlin said.

“Our guys, with our field, are used to it,” McLaughlin said. “This is a normal kind of beginning for us.”

McLaughlin said he expects to start senior Nick Mayo on the mound at Lawrence on Friday. Mayo, who will play basketball at Eastern Kentucky University next year, rejoined the team this spring after taking last season off to focus on basketball.

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Lawrence coach Rusty Mercier was pleased with his team’s play in Wednesday’s season-opening 8-5 win at Mt. Ararat.

“We didn’t make any physical mistakes defensively,” Mercier said. “We hit the ball well.”

The Bulldogs host rival Messalonskee on Friday. Senior lefty Cody Martin, who will continue his baseball career at Endicott College next season, will get the start for Lawrence.

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Mother Nature pulled a fast one on the Gardiner Tigers in the last week.

Last Saturday, the Tigers were enjoying their first day outside on their home field, playing an exhbition game against Camden Hills.

By Tuesday morning, their field was virtually underwater, prompting Gardiner athletic director Steve Ouellette to tweet a photo of the submerged diamond with the question “Are there ducks on the pond?”

Gardiner’s season-opener against Maranacook, which had already been moved from Readfield due to unplayable conditions on the Black Bears’ field, was postponed. No makeup date has been announced yet.

Adding to the frustration, first-year coach Russell Beckwith said he spent two hours removing water from the field “but it filled right back in with that little bit of rain we got (Thursday),” he said. Team and school officials will reassess the field on Monday, he said, with hopes that it will dry out enough for the Tigers to play their home opener next Wednesday against Nokomis.

Gardiner is scheduled to open the season Friday at Leavitt Area High School in Turner. Beckwith said the Tigers are itching to take the field and prove there won’t be a repeat of last year’s disappointing 3-13 campaign. The wet field conditions have prevented the Tigers from practicing at all this season. Fortunately, they were able to go on the road for a handful of exhibition games, and Beckwith liked what he saw.

“This group looks like it’s matured a lot from last year,” Beckwith said. “We’re still relatively young with only four seniors, but we still have a lot of varsity experience.”

Beckwith, in his first year as head coach, said he has already developed a long-term plan to try to revive the program and bring it back to the not-so-long-ago glory days when the Tigers won a Class B state championship in 2008 and back-to-back Eastern Maine titles in 2008 and 2009.

Ultimately, the plan includes improvements to the field so that it drains better and the Tigers can avoid situations like this spring from happening again. For the short term, though, it involves “small things the program doesn’t have, like tees and practice balls,” Beckwith said.

“We’re starting small to get the immediate needs met and then look to develop from there,” he said.

With that in mind, the team has begun fundraising with a cash raffle featuring $1,800 in cash prizes to be drawn at the season-ending banquet (date to be announced). Beckwith said the goal is to raise $6,000. Raffle tickets are $10 each and can be purchased from any Gardiner baseball player, by emailing Beckwith at [email protected] or by logging on to www.gardinerbaseball.com.

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Oak Hill’s Bill Fairchild Field is typically one of the more reliable fields in the area and should be ready for Friday’s Mountain Valley Conference opener between Oak Hill and Hall-Dale, according to Raiders coach Matt Bray.

Hall-Dale will have senior Brian Allen on the mound, although junior Ryan Sinclair could see some action, too, Bulldogs coach Bob Sinclair said. Allen emerged from preseason as the No. 1 starter, but Sinclair is comfortable with either pitcher in a big spot.

“It’s really nice having two hard-throwing aces on the team,” he said. “It gives us a lot of flexibility.”

Senior Bobby Cumler gives Sinclair even more options on the hill, and the coach has been impressed with some of the young arms that emerged in preseason.

Depth will be a key for the Bulldogs, especially if there are postponements to compress what is already one of the most crowded conference schedules in the state. Hall-Dale has three games per week scheduled for the first three full weeks of the season. That slate includes some of the strongest teams in the conference — Oak Hill, Monmouth, Winthrop and Lisbon in the first 13 days.

“They’re all talented teams, so it will be a good measuring stick to see where we are,” Sinclair said.

Oak Hill has a tough early slate, as well, which includes Hall-Dale, Monmouth, St. Dom’s and Dirigo. The difference for the Raiders, Bray noted, is that they usually see the best their opponent has to offer.

“Generally, teams pitch their ace against us because we’re the only Class B team in our conference. They need the Heal Points,” he said.

Today, the Raiders will counter with their ace, senior southpaw Matt Arnold. Unlike last year, when Bray had three essentially interchangeable starters to lean on, Arnold is the clear leader of this young staff.

“Matt Arnold is a pitcher. He knows the game really well. He’ll be around the strike zone,” Bray said. “We’re just trying to be careful with how we mix up our pitchers. We have kind of an assortment of underclassmen that are going to pitch for us.”

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The start times for Friday’s baseball and softball games between Lewiston and Cony were moved to 4 p.m. to give Morton Field and Cony Family Field time to dry out from Thursday’s rain.


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