Anything a pitcher, particularly a high school pitcher, can do to calm his nerves after a hitter reaches base can be a big help in his efforts to prevent them from advancing closer to home, 90 feet at a time.

For Erskine Academy pitchers, a shot of confidence and comfort is usually standing, or squatting in this case, 60-feet, 6-inches away in the form of junior catcher Nick Turcotte.

“I don’t get afraid when there’s someone on first,” Erskine pitcher Dylan Presby said. “He wants to throw them out every time. He’s one of the best catchers in the state.”

Blessed with a strong right arm bolstered by hours of practice on the fundamentals of catching, Turcotte has become better at shutting down the opposition’s running game than the 1985 Chicago Bears. He’s thrown out eight of 13 base stealers and is a big reason why the Eagles are 4-1 in Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B.

“Any time you have a high school catcher that throws 50 percent of your runners out, you’re in pretty good shape,” Erskine coach Lars Jonassen said. “He’s a tough little nut, and he’s consistent,” Jonassen added. “The ones that we haven’t thrown out at second base have primarily been by bad plays by my middle infielders. He gets the ball there quick.”

Turcotte, who has caught since before Little League, learned young what kind of an impact he can have when he can shut down the other team’s running game.

“It’s something I’ve always been proud of,” he said. “It’s probably the thing I work on the most out of everything.”

He’s always had the cannon arm. He’s had to refine other aspects of playing behind the plate to get the most out of that arm and become a run-stopper.

“A few years ago, I had problems on my transfer. I’d drop it on my transfer,” Turcotte said. “That’s something I’ve worked on a lot and it’s helping me out a lot this year.”

Turcotte’s defensive prowess led then coach Mark Bailey to insert him into the starting lineup midway through last season. Turcotte credits the player he unseated with making the transition into varsity catching as easy as possible.

“I felt comfortable, mostly because the kid that was starting before me, Caleb Cummings, he made it really easy. He supported me the entire way. He’s helped me a lot in terms of knowing pitchers,” Turcotte said.

And when it comes to Erskine’s pitching, there is a lot for Turcotte to know.

“The biggest strength of our team is we have a lot of pitching depth. We have seven or eight guys who can throw whenever,” Turcotte said. “It’s just a good all-around staff. I love catching for them.”

Turcotte’s teammates love having him catch them.

“I’ve played with Nick since Little League. He’s always had a great arm,” pitcher Zack Glidden said. “It’s always assuring to know that, even with a runner on, I’m not too worried. Even if they steal, I’m pretty confident that he will throw them out. He always give his 100 percent effort.”

Jonassen shows how much confidence he has in Turcotte by giving him complete control of the staff when they’re between the lines.

“Nick calls all of the pitches. The kids love throwing to him because they’ve thrown to him since sixth grade,” Jonassen said.

On a staff as deep as Erskine’s, that means a lot of different pitching styles and a lot of different personalities for Turcotte to deal with on the mound.

“You have some kids that are a little fiery on the mound. Every kid is different,” he said.

Jonassen described Turcotte as a “dirt dog,” whether he’s kneeling behind the plate or standing in the batter’s box. The Eagles have a lot of depth in their batting order, too, and even hitting at the bottom of the lineup, Turcotte is good enough with the bat to start rallies or keep them going.

“He’s a great No. 9 hitter, too. He just pokes the ball and gets on base,” Jonassen said.

Those who get on base against the Eagles are learning quickly not to poke Turcotte by trying to swipe an extra base. He’s forcing teams that intend to be aggressive on the base paths to change their game plan early in games. Take Belfast, for example, which he kept in check in a 3-2 win last week.

“Their leadoff man, (Emery) Dinsmore, who’s a great athlete, Nick threw him out and that was it. They didn’t run on us again,” Jonassen said. “We always hope that if he can throw the first one out, they won’t try again. It’s just such a difference. Having someone like him, you’re going to win games.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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