Livermore Falls faced a great deal of uncertainty with its catching situation heading into the season, but the Andies went into Friday having won five of their first six games in no small part due to an unknown who has solidified the position.

With senior Willie Brown, an all-conference catcher last year, unable to remain behind the plate due to a severe knee injury, freshman Brandon Hodges has stepped in and done a fine job both behind and at the plate.

Hodges went into Wednesday’s game against Mt. Abram batting .308 and improved upon that mark by going 1-for-3 with an RBI single. Andies coach Brian Dube thinks his new backstop will only get better.

“He’s not really getting the sweet part of the bat on the ball right now. He needs to stay closed a little bit longer,” Dube said. “He’s going to be a hitter.”

Hodges has meshed well with the Andies’ veteran pitching staff thanks in large part to Brown, who has been mentoring him.

“Hodges is my little protege,” Brown said. “He’s got a cannon for a freshman and I’ve been worked him hard. He’s taken every piece of advice. He’s a sponge back there. He’s done more than what we expected.”

As for Brown, he is playing with a partially-torn MCL and completely torn ACL in his left knee. The MCL will heal on its own but he’ll eventually need surgery to reconstruct the ACL.

A right-handed hitter, he tweaked the injury batting left-handed in a game against Carrabec last week. But he was back playing third base against Mt. Abram wearing a fitted aluminum brace.

“It’s keeping me from buckling and tearing my meniscus and my cartilage. It’s doing it’s job,” said Brown, who injured the knee skiing just after basketball season. “My injury was a twisting, and it doesn’t stop that. That was stupidity, hitting lefty.”

Rivalry for a cause

The annual Lewiston/Edward Little game under the lights at Auburn Suburban Little League will be a little extra special this year. The two teams have joined the Portland Sea Dogs’ “Strike Out Cancer in Kids” program and will donate all proceeds from the baseball and softball games on Friday, May 14 to the charity. Admission will be $3 for adults, $2 for student or $5 per car load. The softball game will begin at 5 p.m., the baseball game at 7 p.m., with Auburn-Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame inductees Rick Lashua and and Brian Seguin throwing out the first pitch. Players from both teams will present the gate proceeds at the Sea Dogs’ June 6 game at Hadlock Field.

Not far from the tree

University of Maine at Farmington baseball and basketball coach Dick Meader has a vast coaching tree that reaches all over the state. One of his most recent acorns is also one of the closest. Dan Stefanilo coaches virtually in the shadows of the UMF campus at Hippach Field as first-year coach of Mt. Blue.

Stefanilo played baseball, football and hockey at Sanford and was a member of the Redskins’ 2002 Class A state championship baseball team. He was an infielder for Meader for four years and was team captain in 2008 before becoming his assistant coach in the fall of 2008.

“I wouldn’t have had it any other way. He’s one of the best guys to have as a mentor,” he said.

Stefanilo, who also served as an assistant varsity basketball coach at Jay for fellow Meader protege and current Bates baseball coach Edwin Thompson, has quite the challenge for his first head coaching job. The Cougars are a young team in a tough conference, the KVAC North. They were 2-5 going into Friday’s game with Oxford Hills, but Stefanilo said he is looking for improvement as much as wins from his squad.

“We had one main goal from the beginning of the season, and that was to get better every single day,” Stefanilo said. “We’ve had one hiccup, and that was against Lawrence (in a 10-0 loss on May 3), where we didn’t go out on the field and get better at something.”

Senior Alec Wallace leads the offense, which exploded for 13 runs last week against Hampden Academy but for the most part has been having trouble leaving runners on base, according to Stefanilo. The pitching staff is led by Dylan Vining, Jimmy Neal, and Josh Smith, although Vining was set back early in the season by an injury.

Neal pitched a five-hit gem in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Skowhegan, but Stefanilo was most pleased that the fielders behind him were flawless.

“When we make plays, we can be as good as anybody,” he said.

Odds and sods

Two Lewiston High School alums witnessed their teams toss no-hitters within 16 days of each other last month. Ron Plourde, head coach at Skidmore College, saw junior Trevor Brucato throw a no-hitter against St.  Michael’s on April 10. On April 26, twin brother Don, in his first year at Cony, watched three pitchers, Jake Beland, Ryan Minoty and Jake Lachance, combine to throw a no-no in an 11-0 victory over Mt. Ararat… Speaking of Cony, the much-anticipated matchup between the Rams and Oxford Hills that was rained out last week will be made up May 15th… The Oxford Hills/Cony tilt is one of a number of important games scheduled for the next week. Monday features rivalry games Dirigo at Mountain Valley and Jay at Livermore Falls, as well as Mt. Abram at Telstar. On Wednesday, Oxford Hills hosts Brewer and Livermore Falls travels to Dirigo. Friday features the Lewiston/EL game mentioned above, along with Dirigo at Telstar, Mt. Abram at Jay and Winthrop at Lisbon.