Three local teams grab high seeds for playoffs

12 years ago

Three local teams grab high seeds for playoffs

By Kevin Sjoberg

Sports Reporter

    The playoffs have arrived for high school softball and baseball teams. The region has a few contenders for championships, as the Central Aroostook and Presque Isle baseball teams have gained top rankings in their respective divisions and the Central Aroostook softball team is also among the top four in its class.

Contributed photo/Dave Allen Graphics


    JOE STILES makes a diving catch in the outfield for his Panthers during last Wednesday’s home game against Fort Fairfield. Central Aroostook is the top seed in the upcoming Eastern Maine Class D playoffs and will play either Limestone-MSSM or Fort Fairfield Thursday.


    Some other teams needed to get through the preliminary round, which was scheduled yesterday.

    In softball, Presque Isle, with a 7-9 record, claimed the 13th and final position in the Eastern Maine Class B rankings and had to travel to Caribou for the third meeting between the two squads. Fourth-ranked Caribou (14-2) won the two regular season matchups by scores of 24-0 and 15-0. The winner takes on either No. 5 Old Town or No. 12 Waterville in the quarterfinals Thursday.

    Fort Fairfield (10th place, 4-9) and Ashland (seventh, 6-7) also are familiar opponents and lined up for a prelim contest in Class D. The two teams split their games, with Ashland winning at home May 11, 23-10, and Fort Fairfield getting revenge on its home field May 22, 22-5. The winner gets No. 2 Limestone-MSSM (13-2) Thursday.

    Central Aroostook (12-4) is ranked fourth in D and will play No. 5 Deer Isle-Stonington, which is undefeated at 16-0, in a Thursday quarterfinal.

    In baseball, Tuesday’s Class D prelim pitting No. 8 Limestone-MSSM (10-6) and No. 9 Fort Fairfield (7-8) was an intriguing one. Despite being the lower seed, the Tigers swept the Eagles on the season, winning at home on May 16 by an 18-10 margin and then again in Limestone May 24, 8-4. The winner will make the short trip to Mars Hill to take on No. 1 Central Aroostook (12-2-1) Thursday in the quarters.

    Washburn, with a 6-7-1 record, came in 11th place and met No. 6 Woodland (9-7) Tuesday in Baileyville. The winner plays Southern Aroostook in Dyer Brook Thursday.

    In Class B, Presque Isle wrapped up a stellar regular season with a 15-1 mark and the No. 1 position. The Wildcats will host a quarterfinal Thursday and await the winner of the prelim matching No. 9 Nokomis and No. 8 Camden Hills.

    The semifinal round is scheduled for Saturday, with the Eastern Maine finals set for next Wednesday, June 13. Brewer High School will host the softball championship, while the baseball title game will be held at Mansfield Complex in Bangor.

    The regular season ended last week, with Caribou earning the 15-0 home triumph over PI in softball. The Wildcat baseball team beat the Vikings, 6-4, in a game that needed 13 innings before being decided.

    At Mars Hill that same afternoon, the CA softball team edged Fort Fairfield, 10-9, while the Panther baseball team recorded a 14-1 victory.

    A closer look at the area squads gaining top-four rankings follows:

Presque Isle Wildcats baseball

Contributed photo/jMavor Photography


    SAUL NUNEZ gets ready to deliver a pitch for the Wildcats during last Wednesday’s game in Caribou. Nunez pitched nine innings, but did not figure in the decision as PI needed 13 innings before coming out on top, 6-4. The Wildcats secured the No. 1 position in the Eastern Maine Class B standings and will host a quarterfinal game against either Camden Hills or Nokomis Thursday.

    What a regular season it was for the Presque Isle Wildcats, who began things with doubleheader sweeps at Hermon and Old Town and closed out the campaign with eight consecutive victories.

    Coach Tim Olore, in his 28th season, said the ’Cats have received superb leadership from the five seniors – Wilder York, Isaac LaJoie, Ryley Norton, Jacob Player and Evan Waddell – and that the three main facets of the game (pitching, defense and hitting) have been present throughout.

    Norton and Saul Nunez have made up a fine one-two punch as starting pitchers. Norton carries an earned run average of 0.58 and owns a 4-1 record, while Nunez is a perfect 6-0 and has a 1.95 ERA.

    Jacob Player (3-0, 1.80 ERA) and Wilder York (2-0, 1.93 ERA) have also helped on the mound.

    Presque Isle’s defense has turned 12 double plays and the outfield unit is much-improved from a year ago. Making up the normal starting group are Waddell (.265, 10 RBI) at first, Jonah Stephenson (.426, five doubles) at second, York (.370, 13 steals) at shortstop and Nunez (.312, 12 RBI) or Norton (.391, 10 RBI) at third, along with Tyler Seeley (.373, 16 RBI), LaJoie (.368) and Kyle Goupille in the outfield and Player (.364) behind the plate. Adam Flynn and Corey Belanger have split the designated hitter role.

    “We have demonstrated that we can play this game with anyone,” said Olore, who is looking for his first Eastern Maine title, “and now we have to continue to go after our goal of winning a championship.”

Central Aroostook Panthers baseball

Contributed photo/Dave Allen Graphics


    CENTRAL AROOSTOOK senior pitcher Victoria McIntyre releases a pitch during last Wednesday’s game against Fort Fairfield. McIntyre has been a major factor in her team’s run to the playoffs.

    Following an early-season stretch which includes a tie with Washburn and a 10-run loss to Hodgdon, the Panthers regrouped and were impressive in winning eight of their final nine games to grab the No. 1 slot in EM Class D.

    CA heads into the post-season bolstered by the return to the lineup of senior first baseman Mike McClung, who missed most of the year with a back injury. He batted .380 in limited action and with him healthy again, coach Brent York said “our defense improves greatly and he gives us another power hitter in the lineup.

    Injuries also prevented senior Dan Brewer from pitching last year, but he has returned to the mound and has posted a 2-1 record with a 3.29 ERA. Also helping out with the pitching has been Ross Grass (5-0, 1.68 ERA) and Brendan York (4-0, 2.54 ERA).

    “[Pitching] has been the greatest factor in our success,” said coach York. “We have three solid starters and three relievers who have contributed important innings.”

    The Panthers are two years removed from an Eastern Maine championship, and have numerous players on this year’s roster who were part of that run.

    In addition to McClung, the team’s top hitters are York (.434, 18 RBI), Brewer (.418, five home runs) and Grass (.319, 14 RBI).

    “For a successful play-off run, we need to limit the number of walks we allow and play solid defense,” said the eighth-year coach.

Central Aroostook Panthers softball

    Like last year, the Panther girls enjoyed one of their best regular seasons, and have been rewarded with the No. 4 ranking and home field advantage in the quarterfinal round.

    Last season, CA went 14-2 and was seeded third, but lost to the eventual EM champion Deer Isle-Stonington Mariners in the quarters. Second-year coach Ryan Guerrette has been impressed with the play of this year’s team, especially after a 34-29 loss to Ashland at the season’s midway point.

    “We really played poorly that day and we used it as a wake-up call, and have been a different team since then,” Guerrette said.

    Four players underwent position changes after that loss, including Victoria McIntyre to the mound. Since then, the senior has gone 8-1 with 81 strikeouts in 57-1/3 innings of work, including a no-hitter against Madawaska.

    “She has the ability to shut down the other team’s offense,” said Guerrette, who also noted the Panthers will have to be sound fundamentally, “making all the plays defensively and executing on offense,” to have success in the playoffs.

    “Usually the teams that do that the best move on in the playoffs,” he noted.

    The Panther lineup includes Page Fletcher behind the plate, Michaela King at first, Shannon Todd at second, Rachael Grew at shortstop and Paige Garrison at third. From left to right in the outfield are Kayla Cushman, Whitney Klein and Whitnie Bradbury.

    Grew, Klein and Fletcher are especially fine defenders up the middle. McIntyre (.685 batting average with 35 RBIs and 25 steals) paces the offense along with Cushman (.544), King (.450, 32 RBI) and Grew (.429, 31 runs).

    “It seems like someone different gets the big hit each game,” Guerrette said, noting the team’s starters carry a .350 combined average.