There was an opening on the Maranacook baseball team for an ace this year.

The task fell to Jay Lauter. So far, he’s shown he’s up for it.

The senior lefthander has been lights-out for the Black Bears this season, going 3-0 as Maranacook has started 4-1. He’s struck out 41 batters in 17 innings, recording all but 10 of his team’s outs with him on the mound by himself.

He’s been phenomenal. His control has been great,” coach Eric Brown said. “There are a lot of swings and misses, a lot of called strikes too. He’s in a zone right now.”

Included in that run was an 18-strikeout effort in a 6-0 win over MCI in which he took a no-hitter into the last out of the fifth inning, followed by a 12-strikeout outing in a 10-2 win over Leavitt in which he did the same thing.

His command hasn’t been sacrificed by the strikeouts, with only nine walks given up in the 17 innings.

He’s not striking guys out because they’re afraid of this kid, he’s not some crazy lefty on the mound,” Brown said. “He’s hitting his spots, and it shows.”

Lauter, who worked his way into the No. 2 spot last year behind Dan Garand, has been doing it with a pair of plus pitches. He has a fastball with zip that he can spot in the zone, and a curveball that breaks sharply on hitters.

The breaking ball has been outstanding, and we’re setting up hitters well,” Brown said. “His fastball is looking better, and the breaking ball is looking better as a result. He’s getting a strikeout pitch from both pitches.”

Brown added that, since Lauter won the KVAC championship game against Brewer last season, he’s had a different demeanor about him.

He needed to build his confidence over the last couple of years,” Brown said. “I think he’s feeling pretty confident now.”

• • •

Cony coach Don Plourde knew his team had talent. Now, after two tough seasons, he’s starting to see it come together.

After back-to-back 4-12 seasons, the Rams have started 3-2, with the latest victory being an 8-1 victory over defending Class A state champion Bangor.

“Going into the season, we knew we needed to make some changes from last year,” Plourde said. “We’ve really just been a lot more aggressive on the basepaths, and just really worked on technique. I tell the kids, I want perfect technique. You don’t need to play perfect, but if you have perfect technique, then good things are going to happen.

Plourde said before the season that he wanted Cony in games to get back to playing “backyard baseball” — relying on instinct on the field rather than trying to overthink every situation, with the hopes of playing more freely and easily. So far, it’s worked.

“Practices are for the coaches … but when we step between the lines for a game, the time for coaching is over. It’s time to let the kids play,” Plourde said. “We want them to be able to do their own thinking. We don’t want to do the thinking for them, and we’ve given them a lot more freedom this year. … It’s paid off. Now the kids are in the game.”

Perhaps the biggest development for Cony has been its pitching. In four of the five games, the Rams have allowed a total of nine runs, two of them earned. The staff has been led by Kyle Douin, Mitch McFarland, Riley Geyer and Bobby Stolt, but Plourde also credited catchers Matt Wozniak and Eli Bezanson.

“We look back and out of all those games, we could have and should have probably had three shutouts,” Plourde said. “We profess for pitchers to be free and easy. Go out there, throw the baseball, be athletic. Sometimes we get so locked into mechanics, we turn kids into robots.”

• • •

Few Monmouth players had a more eventful afternoon during the Mustangs’ 4-3 win over Mt. Abram on Wednesday than Cam Armstrong.

The sophomore got the save in the victory, navigating out of a one-out, runners-at-the-corners jam with Monmouth ahead by two runs in the seventh.

“It was the bottom of the order, so coach just told me to throw strikes,” he said. “At first I was feeling good, and then after I walked (the first) batter, I was a little nervous. I went from the stretch instead of the windup, and that helped me a lot more.”

Earlier in the game, though, Armstrong was on the wrong end of a fluke moment. In the bottom of the third, he was standing in the on-deck circle when Trevor Flanagan fouled a ball straight at him, drilling him in the thigh. Armstrong told coaches he was all right, and then laughed about the moment after the game.

“I’m feeling fine. It’s obviously going to be a Charley horse,” he said. “I was practicing my swing and I was looking down and the ball was a line drive right at my leg. … All I saw was a flash of white. I had no time to react.”

• • •

New Winthrop coach Dave Theriault said taking over the head position with the Ramblers has been an adjustment — but not in terms of knowing when to call bunts or steals, move fielders or change pitchers.

“The thing that kind of surprised me a little bit is the amount of administrative work necessary, that as an assistant I never had to do,” he said. “Keeping track of uniforms, and right now, dealing with picture day. Detailed practice plans. There’s a lot of stuff to do beyond coaching with the kids, which is the part I’ve always loved.”

On the field, things have gone smoothly. Winthrop is now 3-1 after beating Bridgeway 5-4 Wednesday.

“My senior leadership is fantastic. The versatility of the kids is great,” he said. “Most of my players have played at least two positions, some three. I can move pieces around the chessboard pretty well. I have a lot of flexibility.”


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