University of Southern Maine head baeball coach Ed Flaherty works on bunting during practice. (Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald)

GORHAM — Ed Flaherty stood in the middle of a group of University of Southern Maine baseball players inside the USM Fieldhouse, and explained, in minute detail, how to execute a bunt.

“Placement,” he emphasized, “is more important than speed.”

It’s back to fundamentals for the Huskies and probably will be for a while. USM just returned from a two-week trip to Florida – where it went 5-5 – to a snow-covered Ed Flaherty Field and the prospect of not playing for a while. “Maybe Sunday,” said Flaherty. In the meantime, it’s indoors for the Huskies.

“We’re used to it,” said Flaherty, in his 33rd year as the Huskies head coach. “When you’re working outdoors in 35-degree weather, you’re not getting stuff done. Indoors you can work on some things you’re lacking, spend a week on it or whatever it takes.”

Flaherty, who has a career record of 979-440-4 and should go over 1,000 career wins at some point this season, likes what he sees in these Huskies. Like many of his former teams, they’re competitive, aggressive and know how to hit.

Pitching, a strength last year when USM went 34-13 and advanced to the New York Regionals, could be a concern. USM’s No. 1 pitcher coming into the season, junior Dalton Rice of Waterford and Oxford Hills High, pitched only the first inning of the season opener on the Florida trip, giving up five runs. Flaherty said Tuesday that Rice is suffering from elbow inflammation and he has no idea when he’ll return.


On top of that, the Huskies lost their No. 1 catcher, junior Kip Richard of Kennebunk, to an Achilles injury that might require surgery.

“He’s lost for the year,” said Flaherty.

But Flaherty still likes this team. A couple of freshmen, third baseman Sam Troiano of South Portland and catcher Jason Komulainen, have played well, each earning Little East Conference rookie of the week honors. Sophomore pitcher Gage Feeney, of Cutler and Washington Academy, has stepped in with a 1-0 record, 2.92 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 121/3 innings. Sophomore Ben Lambert of Saco and Thornton Academy, a transfer from Assumption College, could be a key figure if Rice is out for a long stretch.

“We learned a lot about our team, about the type of guys we got on the field, what we can really do,” said junior center fielder Devin Warren of Smithfield and Messalonskee. “That was a big learning experience for us.”

“We had to move a couple of guys around to see what they could do,” said junior pitcher Henry Curran of South Portland. “They definitely proved themselves. We played some great competition, that’s for sure. It was good to test our team, see how we can stand up against those teams.”

The Huskies entered the season ranked 15th in the D3baseball/NCBWA preseason poll. And while it dropped out of the top 25 this week, USM has faced some tough competition. Four of its five losses came against teams in the top 25.

USM’s lineup is loaded in addition to Warren: junior infielder/pitcher Jack Dexter (.356, 25 RBI) of Oakland and Messalonskee, was a second-team ABCA all-America selection last year, and sophomore outfielder Dylan Hapworth (.394, nine home runs, 42 RBI) of Winslow was a preseason first-team all-America pick by Junior outfielder Zach Quintal (.361, 30 RBI, 13 stolen bases) of Eliot and Marshwood was a second-team all-LEC pick last year.

“I feel good,” Quintal said of USM’s start. “Obviously 5-5 is not the best but you’ve got to read between the lines. Any of those teams we played, maybe with the exception of one or two, can be deep Regional/College World Series teams. … Playing them .500 is good because we’re going to be peaking at the end of the year. Our pitchers are going to figure it out.”

University of Southern Maine head baeball coach Ed Flaherty works on batting during practice. (Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald)

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