AUBURN — Nate Pushard and Scott Annear have been collaborating on the baseball diamond for three years. It’s been a coach/player collaboration thus far.

That venture will end in a few weeks, but they may yet have another in store after Pushard’s high school career ends.

“We have a joke that we’re going to write a ‘Baseball for Dummies’ book together,” said Annear, EL’s baseball coach.

Annear learned early on that if baseball is the subject and Pushard, the Red Eddies’ senior pitcher/third baseman, has heard it, read it or observed it, he’s absorbed it and put it in the memory bank for future use.

That can be invaluable in baseball, the ultimate game of adjustments, as Pushard has already been reminded this season. 

He went from trying to be too fine and laboring through his first mound start of the season, a 6-4 loss to Skowhegan on Opening Day, to a surgically efficient five-hit shutout of Hampden last Saturday.

“My first outing, I wasn’t really locating the ball very well. I was trying to do too much, trying to throw too many strikeout pitches and not enough strikes,” he said. “So I just moved the fastball around and located my off-speed pitches.”

A three-year starter, Pushard learned the value of control watching predecessors such as Luke Farrago and Nate Blais, who took him under their wing his sophomore year.

“I just watched how they controlled themselves on the field, don’t get too high or too low, and I’ve tried to model myself after that,” he said.

Annear was impressed with his youngest hurler’s willingness to learn.

“He has a great passion for being around the game of baseball, so he wanted to talk baseball, wanted to listen to baseball, just observe what everyone else was doing,” Annear said.

Pushard puts the passion to good use, whether it’s in the weight room or working at his craft, whether it’s pitching, hitting and fielding.

“He never allows himself to be satisfied,” Annear said.

The studious sophomore has become a workhorse for the Red Eddies, joining fellow senior Mike Hammond at the top of the rotation. Pushard’s blanking of Hampden was the second of back-to-back shutouts with Hammond, who spun his gem against Lawrence three days before.

“Me and Mikey just build on each other if one of us has a good start,” Pushard said.

The duo showed the utmost confidence in EL’s improved defense in those outings. Pushard knows how to throw the leather himself when he moves from the mound to the hot corner.

He’s also a cornerstone of the Eddies’ lineup, usually batting in the No. 3 spot or cleanup.

“He’s got a lot of pop in his bat,” Annear said. “He has the potential to pull the ball or drive it the other way with a tremendous amount of authority. When he’s clicking it’s kind of like one of those bell-weathers that we’re swinging well today, because typically he has men on base in front of him, and if he’s getting those guys home then we’re scoring runs.” 

After struggling to score runs consistently last year, the Eddies have shown signs of breaking out while splitting their first six games. Pushard, who is headed for the University of Maine at Farmington next fall to become a teacher and play baseball, expects the offense to start pulling more weight.

“We had the talent last year during high school ball, but I don’t think it really clicked,” he said. “But during Legion season (playing for New Auburn), we really hit well as a team and were pretty successful doing it. I think with the same group of guys pretty much that we had in Legion, I’m pretty confident that we’re going to have a good, solid lineup.”

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