POLAND – It was a little too wet for Poland to get in its scheduled exhibition tuneup for the playoffs with Gorham yesterday.

In fact, it was too wet to get much of anything going yesterday. But if Joe Douglass wanted to get something started, he’d have probably succeeded.

Douglass is a master at getting things started for the Knights. The senior leadoff hitter is getting on base two out of every three times he comes to the plate this year (21 hits and 22 walks in 42 at-bats). He’s the catalyst for the top-seeded team in the Western B playoffs.

Then again, if Douglass approaches his rainy days like he does his at-bats, he wasn’t going to do anything yesterday unless the right opportunity presented itself.

“If I don’t want to swing at a pitch, I just won’t,” Douglass said. “I don’t know, it’s just a feel thing. Even if it’s right down the middle, if I don’t want to swing at it, I’ll just leave it.”

Douglass has his reasons for ignoring a pitch most hitters dream of getting a chance to pound. His father, Ray, taught him to be patient and look at the bigger picture. Even though his power has improved this year (three each of home runs, doubles and triples), maybe swinging for the fences isn’t what is called for in that situation. His job is the same job he’s had since taking over the leadoff spot his sophomore year – get on base.

If it doesn’t feel right, it’s not for him.

“He’s a very disciplined hitter, determined to get the pitch that he wants when he’s ready. Then, once he gets to two strikes, he battles,” Poland coach Dave Jordan said. “Coaches around the league talk all the time about what a tough out he is.”

Douglass has batted .500 in each of the last two seasons. He’s scored 28 runs this year, nearly twice his closest competitor in the Western Maine Conference.

“We have good players behind me. Even our seven and eight hitters are good hitters,” he said. “If you get on base, you have a good chance of getting moved around and scoring.”

Just as he does at the plate, Douglass has a way of dictating the game from the base paths. He stole 11 bases, “but the coaches on the other teams think he’s had 30 or 40 because he’s such a menace on the bases,” Jordan said.

Douglass, a southpaw with a 5-0 record, is more in control on the mound, too.

“I’ve brought down my walks a lot. I have better control on my fastball than I’ve had,” he said. “I worked a lot on my curve ball and change-up during fall baseball, and I’m finally actually able to use my change-up.”

A quarterback in football and leading scorer on the Knights’ basketball team, Douglass suffered a back injury on the court that initially prevented him from even standing up straight. He sat out the latter part of the season to get ready for baseball.

“I slipped a disc and the muscles around it just wouldn’t let it go back in,” Douglass said. “Baseball is the most important thing to me, next to my family and school. I just rested, and it just healed right up. I was pretty fortunate with that. I haven’t really had any problems with it at all.”

The pitcher/outfielder/first baseman was named the Western Maine Conference’s Player of the Year for the second straight year. He is the biggest reason the Knights won the conference and are the favorite in Western B. Yet, he deflects the credit to his younger teammates, including his brother, Nick, a sophomore outfielder who made second team all-conference.

“I tell ya, they kept the team together a lot because they kept their confidence up even when they weren’t doing well,” Douglass said.

Douglass will continue his playing career at St. Joseph’s in the fall. Or, perhaps more appropriately, he’ll be starting all over again.


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