Shire baseball reloads after regional championship

HOULTON, Maine — The Houlton baseball team came just one run short in its quest to bring home a state championship last season, which has only made the Shires eager for another opportunity.

Last season, Houlton finished 11-3 in the regular season. The Shires won the Class C North championship with a convincing 10-1 victory over Mattanawcook Academy for the regional crown, but fell 2-1 in a hard-fought state championship match against Hall-Dale.

Seventh-year varsity baseball coach Jim Castner said improvement on the diamond is always his desired result.

“The goal of every coach is to be better than the previous season. That will be a tall task this year after losing six seniors and making it to the state championship game,” he admitted. “However, our goals will remain the same; to get a home playoff game, to make it to the northern Maine (title game), and to win a state championship.  We have to focus on achieving our goals in that sequence. If we overlook any, that will result in us not achieving any of them.”

Houlton lost six key players — Isia Bouchard, Colby Callnan, Seth Holston, Pat Howe, Nick Perfitt and Morgan Phillips — to graduation. So if the team is going to replicate its success, new faces will need to rise to the challenge, the coach said.

The Shire roster features seniors Tyler Bailey (pitcher/outfield), Nick Brewer (outfield/second base), Ryder Graham (third base/pitcher) and Alex Wilde (outfield/first base); juniors, Jaron Brewer (first base/pitcher), Jason Collett (catcher/pitcher/shortstop), Keegan Gentle (shortstop/pitcher), and David Tucker (first base/third base); sophomores, Jeremiah Ireland (outfield) and Thomas Wilcox (outfield); and freshmen Haven Hanning (outfield), Garrett Harvey (pitcher/first base), Nolan Hodgdkins (outfield) and Collin Moody (catcher/pitcher/second base).

“I think we have a strong pitching staff and deep lineup,” coach Castner said. “Jason Collett and Tyler Bailey will be anchoring a starting rotation that has the potential to keep us in every game, no matter the opponent.”

Castner added he hopes the team can improve its defense, considering the Shires have an entire new left-side of the infield.

Once again, Houlton has a 14 game schedule, which is two less than most teams in their division. Castner said that by having fewer games, it gives the team greater flexibility as the season progresses.

“It is two games less than other teams, but it allows us to not have to make up so many from the beginning of the season,” he said. “So far we have been completely inside and I hope that we can get outside in the parking lot soon. Being inside makes fielding harder, but one saving grace is that it allows us to focus on hitting and watching the guys hit closer than would be possible outside.”

Houlton is tentatively scheduled to open the season Friday, April 19, at Orono.

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