When it comes to baseball, hope always springs eternal – even when a blanket of snow covers the diamond.

Just ask the Yarmouth High players. The Clippers rode values like self-belief, optimism and teamwork – with plenty of well-executed fundamentals and pitchers pounding the strike zone – all the way from a ninth seed in Class B South to a state championship last season.

Monday, a dozen returners got back to work in the Yarmouth gym under the watchful eye of Coach Marc Halstead. As it was across the state, it was the first day for baseball and softball pitchers and catchers to start a week of conditioning.

“It feels really good to be back, especially after the way last season ended with the Gold Glove,” said Dom Morrill, now a senior pitcher coming off a 2-1 season with three saves. “We learned the fun part of it comes first. We all just genuinely loved coming to practice every day. It was a team of 20, 21 or so brothers that came every day after school, and battled and just had tons and tons of fun.”

Senior Jess Brown of Portland is a proven pitcher on a proven team. She was the state’s Gatorade player of the year in 2017.

Senior catcher James Waaler offered additional nuggets of wisdom mined from the championship season. Waaler said having “great energy” and strong, selfless leadership is important. Always maintaining a positive outlook also helps.

“We needed some last year, and we definitely have that same hope and optimism this year,” Waaler said.

In other words, dream big, work hard and, as Morrill added, “listen to your coach because he definitely knows what he’s talking about.”

When it comes to softball, a caveat is probably best added. Success can be yours, especially if you have a dominant pitcher.

So it was no surprise that championship aspirations were discussed at Portland’s first softball practice Monday. The Bulldogs return Gatorade Maine Player of the Year and Maine Sunday Telegram All-State selection Jess Brown. She struck out 134 hitters in just over 100 innings, and had a 12-2 record and 1.29 ERA as Portland made its first appearance in the regional final since 2004.

“I think having a proven pitcher helps the team to bond and we have a lot of positive energy,” said sophomore Lainie Legere, the returning catcher.

“I still think of us as underdogs but we’re really not,” said Brown. “We definitely more than proved ourselves last year.”

As his pitching staff watches Monday, Yarmouth High Coach Marc Halsted demonstrates mechanics on the opening day of practice. “Listen to your coach because he definitely knows what he’s talking about,” says Clippers pitcher Dom Morrill.

Since Brown and fellow senior captains infielder Sydney Gilbert and center fielder Kit Rosmus joined the team as freshmen, the Bulldogs have progressed from three wins in 2015, to 10 wins, to last year’s 16-3 record.

“It gives everyone who was here last year a whole lot of confidence,” Rosmus said. “Going into this season, it’s like, ‘Wow, we can actually do it and we have a chance of going for a state title.’ That’s the goal every year.”

“It’s just more realistic this year,” Gilbert said. “That makes it more exciting and makes us more confident.”

There’s no limit on how many players can participate in the conditioning week but hitting, defensive or situational drills aren’t allowed.

“It’s a chance to get into this. Feel good about yourself,” said Portland softball coach Robbie Ferrante. “Don’t rush things. You want to be better later than we are now.”

Sophomore catcher Lainie Legere of Portland knows the value of a proven pitcher as the Bulldogs prepare for another successful season after reaching the regional final.

Full-squad practices for baseball and softball, as well as the other spring sports, begin next Monday. Baseball and softball regular seasons will begin April 12.

This will be the second season Maine is using a pitch-count rule to determine mandatory rest for baseball pitchers. It breaks down as follows: 1-20 pitches, no rest day required; 21-40 pitches, one day of rest; 41-65 pitches, two days of rest; 66-95 pitches, three days of rest; 96-110 pitches, four days of rest.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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