The Star-Herald

PI baseball team bolstered by pitching depth

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Wildcat baseball team is bolstered by strong pitching up and down the roster and the defense up the middle appears solid.

It is the rest of the defense and team hitting which will be key factors in determining whether or not Presque Isle can compete for a Class B North playoff position and make a run in the tournament.

The coaching duo of Derrick Kinney and Curt Paterson hopes the Wildcats can build on their strong finish last season, which included a prelim victory over Gardiner and a close loss to Hermon in the quarterfinals. The team went 10-8 overall.

Presque Isle must replace its starting first baseman and top hitter, Nick Bartlett, who graduated along with starting outfielders Jake Kinney and Brad Kinney and reserves Grant Bridges and Brad McMann.

The coaches are still tinkering with the starting lineup, but seniors R.J. Gross (.360 batting average, six doubles, 11 runs scored and nine RBI in 2017) and Adam Paterson (.255, eight runs); juniors Jonah Hudson (.370, 10 stolen bases and 12 runs), Torey Levesque (.302 and six steals) and Dakota Morrow (.176 and three RBI); and sophomore Connor DeMerchant (.391 and seven runs) are veterans who all will play key roles.

Gross and Hudson are the top two pitchers, and each will play shortstop when the other is pitching. DeMerchant gets the nod at second base and Morrow plays third, while Paterson is the primary catcher and Levesque mans center field and backs up Paterson behind the plate.

The other positions are still up for grabs and starters will be determined once the team can get out on the field, but many of the players can be used in multiple spots. Juniors Cole Paterson and Andrew Hewitt, sophomore Zach Fletcher and freshman Chance Bragan are the candidates for first base and the other two outfield positions. Senior Chandler Paradis and sophomore Sam Beaulieu also will vie for time in the outfield and sophomore Riley Roderick is an extra infielder.

The Wildcats have plenty of pitching behind staff ace Gross (4-3 record last year with a 2.43 earned run average and 36 strikeouts in 40-1/3 innings) and No. 2 starter Hudson (2-2, 5.42 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 30-1/3 innings).

Adam Paterson, Cole Paterson, DeMerchant, Morrow, Bragan, Hewitt, Fletcher and Roderick are the others who are capable of providing innings on the mound. Adam Paterson threw 15 innings last season and DeMerchant and Morrow also have experience from 2017.

“We have 10 kids who can pitch and are lucky to have a lot of arms this year given the pitching rules,” said coach Paterson. “We feel comfortable we will compete with most teams in Class B given our pitching depth.”

He said hitting, especially with runners on base, will be important if Presque Isle is going to be successful. The Wildcats will miss Bartlett, who hit a team-best .446 and had 10 of PI’s 21 extra-base hits, but they still carried a team batting average of .301 and averaged just under five runs per game.

“We hope to keep the line moving and instill in the team the importance of hitting line drives,” Paterson added, “but we also so have some power that could play a role for us.”

Elizabeth Collins, Meghann Collins, Ty Schneider and Kristin Dube are the managers.

Presque Isle has four vacation week exhibition games lined up in southern Maine and is scheduled to open its regular season on the road Saturday, April 21, against the Old Town Coyotes at Bangor’s Mansfield Stadium.

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