NEWPORT — The key phrase around the Nokomis Regional High School baseball team these days is “rolling ground balls.” As in, pitch to contact, keep the ball low, and get opposing batters to hit ground balls to let the Warriors’ infield do the dirty work.

“Roll ground balls for our defense. Its probably the strongest it’s been, ever,” said junior Josh Perry, the ace of the Nokomis staff.

With that in mind, Nokomis is 7-0 and went into Thursday tied with Old Town at the top of the Class B North Heal point standings. The pitching staff, led by Perry, senior Cody Rice, and junior Matt Dyer, is a big reason for the Warriors fast start.

“I’ve got 10 guys that I can pitch,” Nokomis coach Jared Foster said. “We’re just rolling ground balls and the kids are making great plays.”

Six of the 13 runs allowed by Nokomis so far this season came in one game, an 8-6 win over Waterville in what passed for a slugfest for the Warriors. That game is the only time Nokomis has allowed more than three runs so far this season, and the Warriors have two shutouts: a season-opening 12-0 win over rival Maine Central Institute and a 1-0 win at Oceanside on Wednesday. Nokomis carries a team earned run average of just over 2.00 into Friday’s game against Lincoln Academy.

Wednesday’s win over the Mariners was a benchmark for the Warriors.

“Nokomis baseball, in the past, hasn’t had a big win percentage. That game really shows us that we are a good baseball team and we can compete with these bigger schools,” Perry said.

“Last year, I suffered a shoulder injury, and Josh Perry had to work really hard. Now we have three healthy pitchers. We’re coming in throwing hot,” Rice said.

Lately, Rice has dealt with a sore arm, keeping off the mound. Foster said he hopes to pitch Rice in the middle of next week.

“I don’t think it’s anything serious, but I’m going to baby it, because right now it’s the middle of the season. I’ve got enough guys to get us through,” Foster said.

That starts with Perry at the top of the rotation. Now in his third season as a varsity starter, Perry is throwing three pitches for strikes.

“(Perry) threw a lot for me as a freshman. I knew he was going to be pretty decent. Year three now, he’s hitting his zones and mixing it up well,” Foster said. “His fastball’s great. He puts it where it needs to be. His changeup and his curveball’s been decent, too. His changeup’s his out pitch… His out pitch (Wednesday) was probably his curveball, but he’s rolling ground balls with his changeup, which is exactly what I want him to do,”

“I throw a lot harder than I did as a freshman, obviously. I’ve always been pretty accurate with my pitches, even as a freshman. I just couldn’t throw very hard as a freshman. I had to hit my spots when I was younger,” Perry said.

Wednesday at Oceanside, Perry went 6 2/3 before hitting the 110-pitch limit, giving way to freshman Grady Berry, who picked up the save. Berry has pitched well as the team’s closer, Foster said.

“He doesn’t throw very hard, but he throws strikes. When I bring him in after somebody who’s throwing gas, he’s getting outs,” Foster said.

Rice said his best pitch this season has been his changeup, which he’s able to use to get hitters off balance and work the ground balls the Warriors love so much. Rice pointed out the work of middle infielders Alex Baird (second base) and Josh Smestad (shortstop) as keys to the team’s success.

“I don’t have to be too cute around the plate. I can throw it right around the plate, they’ll hit the ball. I feel confident with the guys behind me.

“Every game, I really go out confident,” Rice said.

Dyer, the No. 3 starter, said his job is to throw strikes and trust the defense.

“I’m feeling pretty confident locating that and getting it where I want it to be. Just try to keep the ball on the ground and let the infield do the job they’ve been doing the whole year,” Dyer said.

With four games scheduled in the next six days, including key Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference games against Erskine and Morse, Foster hopes the Warriors run of strong pitching and defense continues.

“Let them hit the ball, because we’re going to make plays,” Foster said.

For the Warriors, the key to winning is simple. Keep throwing strikes, and continue rolling ground balls.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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