SOUTH CHINA — The scores this season say at all. If you’re facing the Erskine Academy baseball team, good luck with so much as getting on base.

“Pitching depth is something that’s really lacking in the league right now, and I think we have a huge advantage,” catcher Nick Turcotte said. “We have three or four guys that would be No. 1 pitchers on other teams, I think.”

The batters who do get on, however, may think they can make life easier for their team by swiping a base to inch closer to making it home. Well, good luck with that, too.

“If you give up a base hit and there’s a guy on first,” junior pitcher Noah Bonsant said, “I feel a lot more comfortable on the mound, knowing the guy behind the plate can throw out just about anybody in the league.”

That would be Turcotte, and that would be the strength behind an Eagles team that has been rolling to begin the season, posting a 4-0 start (entering Thursday) in which it has outscored opponents 30-2. And powering this machine-like operation has been its battery, the talented staff throwing the pitches and Turcotte — rifle-armed behind the plate — catching them.

Strong pitching isn’t uncommon in high school baseball. Neither is having a good catcher. Having both, however, provides a team with a luxury at the game’s focal point.

“We could lose a lot of games, but our pitching and our catching won’t be the reason why we do,” coach Lars Jonassen said. “It’s just so solid. And I’ve had years where we’ve had a tough time at the catcher position, and when you do, you’re just not going to be a dominant team. That’s a huge position.”

The staff is deep, and led by a pair of aces in Bonsant and senior Nate Howard. Both are tall, hard throwers, and proven on the mound. Howard, who is considering offers to pitch in college from UMass Dartmouth and Mass Maritime, can reach the mid-80s with his fastball and is coming off a stellar season in which he didn’t suffer a regular season loss and held eventual Class B champion Old Town to two hits in five innings in the North regional semifinals.

“Nate was bringing it. Those Old Town kids had all they could do to put the bat on the ball,” Jonassen said. “They couldn’t hit him, and they won the state championship.”

Opponents don’t get much of a break when Jonassen gives the ball to Bonsant, a 6-foot-5 righthander who attacks batters with an arsenal of mostly four-seam and two-seam fastballs. He’s a few ticks behind Howard, but his movement is better, and he’s just as tested, having outdueled Oceanside pitcher and eventual Southern New Hampshire University pitcher Nick Mazurek last year.

“It’s a coin flip,” Jonassen answered when asked which is the top pitcher. “I think the major part is the confidence the rest of their teammates have in them when they pitch. It just gives you an upbeat feel.”

The similarities extend beyond the pitching reportoires.

“They have no emotion when they pitch,” Jonassen said. “And that’s huge for kids. If things go bad, ‘oh well.’ ”

They leave that to Turcotte. The senior backstop is the team’s emotional leader, and while a catcher is normally the reassuring voice for a pitcher in times of trouble, the dynamic often works in reverse at Erskine.

“Nick can get mad,” Howard said, laughing. “He won’t come up and yell, but his body language, he’ll let us all know what’s up. He’ll tell us all on the field that we can do better.”

“Nick is the rah-rah, emotional leader type,” he said. “He wears his heart on his sleeve, he’ll show his emotions if something doesn’t go right, if he throws one into right field. So I actually think the two pitchers stabilize him.”

They also rely on him. Turcotte calls the pitches, and has earned his pitchers’ trust both through his experience playing with them and his own baseball savvy.

“He knows the batter’s capabilities, he can see where they’re standing on the plate better than (we can),” Bonsant said. “If they’re off the plate, he’s going to call a fastball outside. If they’re crowding the plate, fastball inside. If it’s an 0-2 count and they just fouled off a pitch, maybe go up high if they’re chasing. … He calls a good game.”

And even if he makes a mistake and the batter picks up a hit, the fun is just starting. Turcotte threw out 60 percent of runners last year, and was clocked at needing only 2.02 seconds to go from catching a pitch to hitting the fielder’s glove with his throw down to second.

“With catching, you’re in the middle of every play, you’ve got to be focused on everything,” Turcotte answered when asked what he likes most about the position. “You’re kind of a leader of the infield because you see everything.”

Howard chimed in. “And throwing kids out?”

Turcotte smiled sheepishly. “Throwing kids out is fun.”

The combination is why the hopes are high for a deep playoff run after last year’s ended with a 3-1 loss in that semifinal game against Old Town, but there might be more to it than was originally anticipated. Senior Dylan Presby and Nick Howard, Nate’s freshman brother, have thrived in starts as well, allowing Erskine to start undefeated even before Nate Howard has gotten an opportunity to start.

“It’s huge. It means Nate, Noah or any starter doesn’t have to have this pressure. … If they give up a few runs or have a bad outing, we have guys who can step in,” Turcotte said. “You can see the depth now.”

As the season continues and the weather stabilizes, however, the bulk of the starts will go to the two aces, putting them in a spotlight in which they’re more than comfortable.

“It’s just one of those confidence-builders for the kids,” Jonassen said. “The minute I say Noah’s pitching or Nate’s pitching, you can tell the kids are like ‘OK.’ … They know (those two are) going to pitch well, and I think that’s a big asset to it.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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