After more than a decade of timely hits, diving catches and 1-2-3 mound innings from the band of four brothers, losing senior pitcher and shortstop Mike to a strained hamstring was a two-week struggle the Saints would just as soon forget.

“He went down in the first inning of the second game, down to Boothbay,” St. Dom’s coach Bob Blackman said. “Hit a ground ball and pulled up just short of first, almost felt like someone had shot him in the leg. We were lucky that we only lost him for two weeks. That easily could have been a season-ending situation.”

Bryant missed the remainder of that game, plus the next three, and was relegated to designated hitter duty in two others.

St. Dom’s sputtered through a three-game losing streak, its first in Blackman’s 13 seasons, and was 3-4 and behind the playoff bubble when Bryant was medically cleared to do more than swing a bat.

“Two weeks where I pretty much couldn’t do anything. It was rough,” Bryant said. “It was difficult because obviously you have to get in a rhythm, but I think I was able to work enough during those two weeks to keep my arm strong.”

His return saved the Saints’ season. Bryant is 3-0 with a minuscule 0.32 ERA, with 38 strikeouts and eight walks in 22 innings. At the plate, despite the missed time, he is third on the team with 15 hits and tops the club with a .385 average.

“We’ve rebounded nicely. Kind of the blessing in disguise is his arm is about as fresh as it comes. He’s got a live arm right now,” Blackman said. “His pitching stats are just off the charts. You can understand why we’ve finished strong with him back, and that’s our only hope, really.”

Seeded a modest No. 8 in Class C West, St. Dom’s — a regional finalist 11 of the past 12 years — hosts a preliminary game for the first time with Blackman or any of the Bryants in camp Tuesday afternoon. Game time against Madison is 4:30 p.m.

Pat, the oldest brother, roamed the outfield for Blackman from 2005 to 2008. Then came Chris, a left-handed pitcher who continued his career at Saint Joseph’s College. Joe was primarily a shortstop.

Mike, who has started since his sophomore season, was Caleb Dostie’s heir apparent at short this spring and is part of a potent three-pronged rotation that includes senior southpaw Mitch Lorenz and freshman Gavin Bates.

“There were really big shoes to fill coming up,” Bryant said. “It was cool, because I always watched them growing up. I watched all the state championships, almost every single Western Maine final they’ve been to, and being able to be part of it these four years has been great.”

Family is the lifeblood of small, parochial high schools. Blackman, himself, gravitated to the program in 2003 when his son, Brady, was the Saints’ ace.

“So much of my experience at St. Dom’s has been building relationships, and the Bryants have been right at the top with the Parkers, the Allens, all families that we’ve had multiple kids,” Blackman said. “When you lose it, it is a big void. But these are the people that always come back and want to see you again. It’s been a great relationship.”

St. Dom’s is 8-1 since Bryant fully returned to the lineup in the eighth game of the season.

Not counting a loss to Lisbon, the Saints have outscored opponents 58-3 in that stretch, including shutouts of fellow tournament teams Monmouth, Madison and Mountain Valley.

“Hall-Dale and Monmouth were both really good wins, so I think we’re kind of hitting our up-stride right now,” Bryant said. “Hall-Dale was probably my best pitching performance so far. I just feel like my stuff has been really strong lately. We’ve been working on a few things. I feel like my fielders are backing me up really well.”

Bryant, who lives in Gray, will attend (what are the odds?) Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I.

The Bulldogs are a Division I program, so Bryant, who also played golf and basketball at St. Dom’s, expects that his competitive days will end whenever the Saints’ playoff journey does.

“We graduated already, so this is the last high school thing I’m ever going to do,” Bryant said. “It’s really bittersweet. It’s like I’m moving on, but at the same time it’s hard, because sports has been a huge part of my life since I was 4 or 5. It’s going to be tough to give it up.”

Hey, imagine how Blackman feels. The only younger child of John and Debra Bryant is a daughter, Janelle, who has three years remaining at St. Dom’s.

“I said to Mike the other day, I guess if I want to continue the Bryant trend, I might have to look to coach softball next year,” the coach quipped.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.