Mt. Abram baseball coach Jeff Pillsbury knew the Roadrunners’ competitive edge was still sharp enough to shake up the Mountain Valley Conference this season.
Third-seeded Mt. Abram (15-2) was supposed to take on sixth-ranked Maranacook (12-5) in a Class C South baseball quarterfinal on Thursday, but a statewide deluge put the kibosh on both teams until Friday at 2 p.m.
“I think we are go for 2 p.m. tomorrow if our fields are ready,” Pillsbury said. “We’ve got a tough draw. We’ve got Maranacook, and if we get by them, we’ve got to go to second-seeded Sacopee Valley (15-2). It is a tough road. Maranacook, they are solid. I think we have the toughest bracket, perhaps.”
When Pillsbury looks back at what has transpired so far, he sees a group of dedicated athletes.
“We’ve had a good season,” Pillsbury said. “Trevor Phelps has pitched well, Adam Luce pitched well. We’ve played pretty good defense. We beat Oak Hill twice, Monmouth twice. Those were all good games (and) could have gone either way.
“A lot of times, it is the team that get’s a break, a hit or play, but it was a good season.”
It has helped, Pillsbury points out, that the Roadrunners have been playing together for a long time.
“Starting with Cal Ripken, and they played some Babe Ruth, so they are a pretty close-knit crew,” Pillsbury said.
It also is an experienced crew, led by several key upperclassment.
“For seniors, we’ve got Trevor Phelps, Adam Luce, Ian Allen, Wyatt Sieminski, and Brenden Williamson is our fifth senior,” Pillsbury said. “(Williamson) doesn’t start, but he had a big bunt for us (this season).
“So those are the five seniors, then there is my boy, Kaden Pillsbury. He’s a junior, (with) Tucker Plouffe and Trey Pease. Sophomore Payton Mitchell has had a good year. Cam Grey came down from Rangeley.”
VIKINGS, MILLER SET FOR PLAYOFFS
Oxford Hills ended its regular season on a sour note, falling 16-5 to Skowhegan thanks to a massive fifth inning by the River Hawks.
Still, Cindy Goddard and the Vikings are thinking positive as they have moved on and progressed through the postseason.
“I think I would say that (loss to Skowhegan is) behind us, knowing that we played a good game with them for a bit and the flood gates opened and they hit the ball,” Goddard said. “We respect them and we know what their capabilities are, and we know that they can play with the best of them.”
Before that setback the Vikings won four games in a row, averaging 12 runs a game. The offense was clicking and pitcher Maddy Miller gained confidence.
“She’s doing everything we’ve asked her to do,” Goddard said of Miller. “She isn’t going to throw the heat and blow by you, but she can be smart with placement, when people are on base, off-speed stuff. She has a nice changeup and a nice little curve, and she has to just do her best to keep batters off balance, and that’s when you have to hope your defense can support you.”
Miller doesn’t throw particularly fast, but Goddard said she has gotten smarter about placement, pitch selection and has strengthened her composure.
“It’s just her improvement on the mound. If a team gets five runs, it’s not like she is in tears,” Goddard said. “The team supports her and says, ‘All right, we are going to go do it on our end.’ Just holding her composure on the mound and just knowing that she belongs. She knows her limitations.
“She’s smart, and that’s the key. She’s like the Brunswick pitcher, Ellie Sullivan. She’s smart, knows her limitations. She pitched a great game against Messalonskee.”
No. 3 Oxford Hills will face No. 11 Camden Hills on Friday at 11 a.m. in a Class A North softball quarterfinal.
Goddard said a hot pitcher can take a team far into the playoffs. For instance, ninth-seeded Messalonskee, led by pitcher Morgan Wills and her 15-strikeout no-hitter, defeated No. 1 Brunswick on Wednesday.
“If you have a good pitcher, you’ll do well,” Goddard said. “I mean, think about it, (Willis) struck out 15 people and only had to get 21 outs. … If you did that you don’t have to score many runs. Danielle Masterson at Hampden is similar because when she’s on, she can be hot.”
26ERS ACCEPTING ROLES
When the Gray-New Gloucester/Poland boys lacrosse team faced North Yarmouth Academy in the third game of the regular season, the 26ers were still ironing out some wrinkles and suffered a 13-3 loss.
Since then, the eighth-seeded 26ers (5-8), who face the top-seeded Panthers (9-3) in the Class C quarterfinals Friday at 4 p.m., have made a lot of improvements. The biggest change, first-year coach Tyler DeMoore-Gonzalez said, is that the Gray-Ng/Poland players have learned the importance of sacrificing individual success for team success.
“They have learned their roles, and they got used to me and my coaching staff on what we are trying to accomplish here,” DeMoore-Gonzalez said. “We changed some things, Xs and Os wise, but a lot of my kids understand the role they play on the team. Not everyone is trying to be a Michael Jordan. Now we have Scottie Pippens, we have Steve Kerrs and Dennis Rodmans. They all understand their role now.”
That includes, DeMoore-Gonzalez said, short-stick midfielders Brody Simpson and Brady Martin, who transitioned to a defensive role this year.
The 26ers faceoff man, Owen McDuffie, also is becoming a two-way player.
“My faceoff guy, in past years, he played offense,” DeMoore-Gonzalez said. “This year, he has accepted the role of only taking the faceoff and scoring off the faceoff. He has accepted that.”
McDuffie can flip the field when he’s playing. He has won 75 percent of the faceoffs he has taken this season.
Two other 26ers, Matthew Fournier and Zachary Spurling, are taking higher-percentage shots and creating better offense.
Gray-New Gloucester/Poland put it all together nicely in its 22-1 win over ninth-seeded Erskine Academy in a first-round playoff game Tuesday.
The 26ers have adopted the motto “30 or Nothing.”
“If you aren’t playing like you want to score 30 goals, then you aren’t giving it 100 percent,” DeMoore-Gonzalez said.
ATHLETICISM KEY FOR HAWKS
The Maranacook/Winthrop girls lacrosse coach Sarah Caban said having well-rounded athletes has been key to the Hawks (11-1) earning the top seed in the Class C playoffs.
“I think it’s really important (to have athletes on the team),” Caban said. “I think a lot of the fundamentals, on defense, especially, comes from other sports. A lot of girls that come from basketball are phenomenal defenders because it’s the same idea. A lot of them are fast and have endurance. Again, that’s just from their athleticism, which comes in pretty handy.”
The basketball-playing lacrosse defenders include Ella Schmidt, Eliza Pattershall, and Jordan Carr.
On the offensive side of the ball, some of the attackers, such as Anna Erb, Lilly Caban and Ella Delisle, are soccer players.
Sarah Caban said those three can use their speed more in lacrosse than they do in soccer.
“I think a lot of them feel liberated because the ball is not at their feet,” Sarah Caban said with a chuckle. “So they can go a lot faster (on the lacrosse field).”
The Hawks are looking to earn a spot in next week’s semifinals by defeating eighth-seeded Lake Region (6-7) in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Sarah Caban said Maranacook/Winthrop doesn’t know much about Lake Region, but the Hawks’ athleticism and position versatility allows them to adapt to different styles of play.
The Hawks haven’t brought up last year’s state semifinal loss to Waynflete. Instead, they are drawing the experience of the Maranacook soccer players who won the Class C state championship in the fall.
“They have a ton of experience of playing several years together and playing in some tough games,” Sarah Caban said. “… These girls have a real sense of family, and they tapped into that, and their general athleticism — that has been the real key for us.”
The Maine Principals’ Association recently awarded the Mt. Blue’s girls track and field and the boys tennis teams the Good Sportsmanship Award for Class A North.
The awards were voted on by teams the Cougars competed against this season, based on players supporting one another on the field or court and from the bench, treating officials with respect, and positive community involvement. Other criteria includes not using any inappropriate gestures, language or expressions, and not committing acts of unnecessary roughness/taunting.
The Mt. Blue girls track and field team is coached by Kelley Cullenberg, and the boys tennis team by Zac Conlogue.