Erskine Academy baseball coach Scott Ballard had a problem. His team had a game scheduled for Wednesday against Maranacook, and now, a game originally scheduled for Friday at Waterville was set for Thursday to beat the next rain storm. This gave the Eagles three games in four days, and called for some pitching staff gymnastics.

Who would pitch on Wednesday against Maranacook?

“You kind of experiment on the fly,” Ballard said.

Against Maranacook, Ballard chose to start freshman Hayden McMurtry, and used freshman Isaac Hayden in relief. Erskine’s dilemma is one high school baseball teams will deal with all season in Maine. How does a team comply with the pitch count rules, while at the same time make it through games stacked up do to unplayable fields and rainouts?

“You’re trying to plan ahead, which can be difficult,” Waterville coach Russell Beckwith said.

Pitch count rules forbid any varsity pitcher from throwing more than 110 pitches in a game. Any pitcher who throws between 96 and 110 pitches is required to have four days of rest before he may pitch in a game again. For pitchers throwing 66-95 pitches, it’s three days rest, and 41-65 pitches, two days rest. That’s why in Thursday’s game against Erskine, Beckwith pulled starter Kody Vallee after four innings. Vallee was pitching well, allowing just two runs, but he was right at 65 pitches, and Beckwith knew the Purple Panthers may need him again early next week.

“Early and often games so far have made us have to stagger arms and reduce pitch counts. We haven’t really been able to stretch anybody out, because we’ve had to throw short days so they can be available to us on a Monday-Friday situation,” Beckwith said. “It’s a long year. We’re making sure we’re protecting the arms so we have a full rotation.”

According to William Watson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Gray, April saw 17 days with measurable precipitation in Maine, the most rainy days in April in 40 years. May has been a little below normal, in terms of rainfall, Watson said.

“We’ve kind of been stuck in this pattern a little while now. We’re getting these (rain) systems every two or three days,” Watson said.

That’s led to numerous postponements and cancellations, and schedule juggling by athletic directors throughout the region.

For example, Friday’s steady rain caused a ripple effect with Monmouth Academy’s schedule. The weather washed out a scheduled game against Dirigo. The teams will now play a doubleheader in Monmouth on Tuesday, May 28.

For a Class D small school like Forest Hills, games stacked upon games is nothing new. It’s also nothing new to try to make every pitch count. The Tigers have just three upperclassmen with pitching experience: Seniors Brandon Gilboe and Jakob Rivas, and junior Hunter Cuddy. They know they have to be efficient on the mound. Forest Hills opened the season with a doubleheader against Temple, and has three more twinbills on the schedule. Saturday, the Tigers are scheduled to face Richmond at 11 a.m. and Buckfield at 1 p.m.

“We definitely do struggle with it,” Rivas said. “We try to limit ourselves to 65 pitches for our more experienced pitchers. Sometimes, we’ll just ask a guy to go the whole way. In our first game against Temple, we had Brandon go six innings… You try and pitch a strike every time and rely on your fielders.”

For Ballard and Erskine, throwing McMurtry and Hayden in a varsity game wasn’t planned, but in the long run, will be a success. While Maranacook took a 5-2 win, Ballard now feels he has a deeper pitching staff.

“They kept us in position to win that game, but more importantly, they put us in good position for (Thursday’s win at Waterville). We discovered a couple freshmen pitchers who threw very well,” Ballard said. “It actually worked out pretty well, and now we can put them in with confidence down the stretch as we try to make a playoff run.”

Watson said the Climate Prediction Center predicts a change in this rainy pattern later this month, which is good news for teams looking to make a playoff push.


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