POLAND — They’ve been in little moments and big moments, but they haven’t been in the moment. At least, not yet.

Coach Mike Connor started telling Poland’s seniors about being in the moment a long time ago. It’s been a big part of making the Knights a Western Maine Conference power again.

“Coach has said to us 100 times, ‘When you’re in the moment, what are you going to do?'” senior centerfielder/pitcher Kaleb Bridgham said. “‘Are you going to be two steps ahead or are you going to be watching the play after it happens?'”

With a senior-laden roster, it’s not surprising the Knights can anticipate better than most teams. Poland is a step ahead of the competition right now, at 9-3 and on top of the Western Class B Heal Point standings.

Bridgham and Jake Simard form the heart of Poland’s potent offense. Bolstered by the emergence of fellow senior and No. 5 hitter Lukas Johnson and the on-base exploits of Corey Cunliffe and Bill Bickford in front of them, the  Knights’ 3-4 combo powers their hopes a deep playoff run.

“It’s a luxury to have a 3-4 like that,” Connor said. “Kaleb has to see more pitches because Lucas’ name is getting out there. Kaleb is already well-known around the league, and so Jake is getting more pitches. This year, we have a group to get on in front of them and protection behind them. And they’re being productive with the pitches they see.”

Simard and Bridgham have hit 3-4, respectively, in the batting order most of their baseball careers. They’ve become so comfortable in those spots that even a minor tweak like flip-flopping them felt strange.

“Last year, I hit behind Kaleb,” Simard said. “It was the first time I’ve ever done that. It just felt so uncomfortable. I was like, ‘Coach, we’ve got to switch back. He’s been hitting behind me since seventh grade.'”

“I just know that if I get on base I can score pretty easily with him behind me,” said Simard, who is hitting a robust .359 this season. “I don’t really worry too much about hitting a home run, just get on base.”

Bridgham has shown he can provide the pop, hitting three home runs. But the perfectionist in him sees a .329 batting average and believes he can do better.

“I’ve hit a few ball really square, but I honestly haven’t been hitting to my potential,” he said. “My numbers have been down a little bit and I recognize that. Maybe I need to shoot for a couple more line drives.”

Connor doesn’t worry about their numbers, and he certainly doesn’t worry about whether Simard and Bridgham are committed to the game.

He took over the Poland program when they were in the eighth grade, and they were among the first in their class to make the varsity roster. Both have been staples in the lineup (and in Simard’s case, the pitching staff) since their sophomore year and have done everything Connor has asked them to do.

“They both catch, they both play the corners and the outfield,” Connor said. “I can put them anywhere. Even though neither of them has a lot of foot speed, they make up for it from the neck up.”

“It’s all about preparation. We’ve all done the preparation to get to the point we are,” Bridgham said. “I can’t tell you how many fly balls and ground balls we’ve taken to become solid all around players.”

Simard and Bridgham are prepared to continue playing baseball in college — Simard at Wentworth, Bridgham at Franklin Pierce. But all they are focused on now is the moment, and those moments to come.

“I think I expected to be here, but right now, it’s just our normal regular season,” Bridgham said. “It’s not our big picture. We’ve had a goal since we were real young kids, and we’ve got to do the little things to get it done.”


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