FARMINGDALE — While other baseball teams in the area got to work in early April, the Maranacook team had to wait.

And wait. And wait.

The Black Bears are back on the field now, and if Thursday afternoon is any indication, they’re starting to get caught up. Behind five strong innings from Nick Florek and an offense that cashed in on early opportunities, Maranacook defeated Hall-Dale 7-0, improving to 1-2.

Florek struck out six and allowed two hits for the Black Bears, while Tyler Hreben had two hits, a walk and an RBI. Kody Gaucher had a hit and three RBIs. Sam Sheaffer struck out seven while allowing four hits and three walks in six innings for the Bulldogs (2-4), while Max Byron, Carter Bourque and Kai Lucas had hits.

It hasn’t been the start to the season Maranacook coach Eric Brown and his players could have hoped for. Multiple COVID-19 cases at the school, and the contact tracing and quarantining that followed, put the Black Bears out of action for four weeks from late March to late April, and while other teams were rounding into form with practices, scrimmages and games, Maranacook was trying to shake off the rust at a record pace.

“We’re getting our timing right now,” Brown said. “We’re behind everybody, it seems like. … Monmouth, I think between the preseason and regular season they were up to nine or 10 games, and when we played them on Monday (in an 8-2 loss) that was just our second game. Using them as our metric, they were where we need to be, and we were way behind them.”

“It’s been difficult,” Florek added. “We have a pitching machine in our gym, and we’ve set that up to pretty high speeds, just to get used to that high speed and it’s helped a lot. … Our first two games, they were hitting the ball really well and we just couldn’t hit the ball. We finally caught up a little bit today.”

Maranacook second baseman Brayden St. Pierre, left, leans in to make a tag, but Hall-Dale’s Jackson Leach was safe at second during a game Thursday in Farmingdale. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

The Black Bears cashed in on the chances they had. In the first inning, Hreben and Wyatt Lambert led off with a single and a walk, respectively, and two batters later came in on a single to center by Goucher. Florek scored on an error in the third, Travis Lemelin reached on an error and scored on Hreben’s single in the fourth, and Alex Trafton made it 5-0 in the fifth when he singled and scored when Goucher’s grounder took a tricky hop.

“It’s hard getting the bats going in the first game of the season anyway, and these pitchers have thrown two or three games already when we’re coming in and haven’t even hit yet, so it’s hard to do that,” Hreben said. “But today we got the runs on the board early, and that helped us a lot.”

Brown said he expects the team to be caught up by midseason, and that he likes what they’ll be capable of by that point.

“We’re still a work in progress,” he said. “We have two classes that have not been in the system. … We’ve got a lot of young talent on the team, and I’m very encouraged by what I’ve seen.”

Hall-Dale coach Kyle Bishop said he was pleased by the competitiveness his team has shown, both throughout the season and Thursday, when five errors made the afternoon more of an uphill climb.

“I did think today was an improvement in some areas,” he said. “We’ve kind of been our own worst enemy at times with some costly errors and walks, but we limited those compared to our other losses today, which was better.

“If we continue to get better and better with each practice and each game, we’ll see where the chips fall at the end of the year. But we’ve got a group that has good attitudes, they’re good kids. We’ll keep grinding away and chipping at it.”

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