While the high school spring sports season was close to a return to normal for most sports, the baseball season had one glaring reminder of the COVID-19 pandemic in every game. Rather than being positioned directly behind the catcher to call balls and strikes, home plate umpires called the game from behind the pitcher’s mound.

It took some getting used to, but by the end of the season, teams were accustomed to the new positioning, which will go down as a one year concession to social distancing rules.

“I really have to tip my cap to (the umpires). They did a great job,” Monmouth Academy baseball coach Eric Palleschi said. “It’s hard. Those plays at the plate, we knew they were going to be tricky before the season. I think they made the right call, doing it all season. We started one way, we should finish the same way.”

The high school baseball season made it from start to finish, although some teams were unable to get in a complete 16-game regular season schedule due to COVID-19 protocols at their school. If a team didn’t have a game postponed or cancelled, there was a good chance it took the field without a full roster available.

“It only really affected us one time, with one of our pitchers,” Skowhegan coach Mike LeBlanc said.

At Monmouth, Palleschi had a stretch of games in which his team was shorthanded due to players in COVID-19 protocols. The Mustangs played through, even if it meant playing a game with just 10 active players. Palleschi thought of the players who lost the entire 2020 season, and decided if he had enough players to fill out a lineup card, the Mustangs would play.

“No way I was taking any time from them this season,”Palleschi said.

The Monmouth Academy Mustangs celebrate their Class C South regional championship in Standish this spring. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Because most players took part in either an abbreviated summer baseball season in 2020 or not at all, it took time for hitters to catch up to live pitching. An early season game between Winslow and Maine Central Institute saw 24 strikeouts.

“We knew that would be the case. That’s why we kept telling (pitchers), pound the zone. We knew timing would be off. There’s a lot of at bats guys didn’t get,” LeBlanc said.

Despite entering the season without a pitcher with varsity experience, Skowhegan hit its stride late, making a run to the Class A North championship game. Monmouth won the Class C South title before falling to Orono in the Class C state championship game. Richmond advanced to the Class D South final.

Two central Maine players were finalists for the Winkin Award, given annually to the top graduating senior baseball player in the state. Cony’s Kyle Douin and Gavin Rawstron were honored as Winkin Award finalists at the annual underclassmen all-star game at St. Joseph’s College in Standish.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

 

 

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