Lisbon catcher Hunter Davis puts the tag on Mt. Abram’s Bryce Werzanski during an MVC baseball game in Lisbon last week. (Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)

The four Mt. Abram players suddenly experienced a senior moment before they could recall and agree on the last time the baseball team won a game.

Winning five games and playing better baseball is quickly making three losing seasons a distant memory for the Roadrunners’ seniors Evan MacKay, Sam Storer, Cody Ladd and Bryce Werzanski.

Right now, the Roadrunners are 5-8 and just might sneak into the playoffs, which would be a remarkable turnaround for a team that has been in the doldrums for three trying seasons.

Fearsome foursome

“It is frustrating losing three seasons in a row, but it has been a pretty good season. Very proud,” Ladd said. “I just want to say I am proud of Mt. Abram baseball and we’ve completely full-circled since our freshman year — and I know we have more in store for the rest of the season.

“I have been playing baseball since I was 8 years old. You have to just fight through it.”

Indeed, the Roadrunners have endured and they have beaten the likes of Dirigo, Spruce Mountain and Monmouth along the way.

“I have been very happy with my four seniors,” Mt. Abram coach Jeff Pillsbury said. “They look at these young kids and they are following their lead.

“But my older kids have stepped up and contributed in practice and the dugout and in the game. … They hit the ball well and run the bases.”

“They are a much-improved team,” Lisbon coach Randy Ridley said after his Greyhounds beat the Roadrunners 11-2 last week. “They are still learning a little bit, but they are a very much improved team. They are having success, which is nice to see because they deserve it. They worked hard to get there.”

But those seniors have played a variety of vital roles on the diamond or in the dugout to keep morale up this season.

Storer is the team’s starting shortstop, MacKay is an outfielder, and Werzanski is a utility player.

“Cody Ladd has been great in the dugout,” Pillsbury said. “He has a tough role because he is a senior and is probably not getting as much playing time as he would like. He has got a few starts for us. They have all played a pretty good part.”

But despite a three-year drought, the four seniors never really thought about calling it quits and turning to another spring sport.

“Honestly, it is just the players,” MacKay said. “My guys, I guess. We are in it for long haul.”

“I love the game of baseball and I thought about trying something else, but I love the game too much,” Storer said. “(Winning) is a lot better than zero. We don’t want to be content with it. We know we can play better than we have so far. We think we can even get better from here.”

Consecutive losing seasons didn’t dim Werzanski’s zest for America’s pastime.

“The teammates have always been really good,” Werzanski said. “It is a sport I could never give up just because of a losing season because there is that potential next game that we could be doing something better.

“I am glad about our record so far, but I know we can do better. Got great coaching, great teammates, good attitude and I think we can get pretty far this year.”

Young at heart

With only four seniors and a junior, Pillsbury has no choice but to turn to younger players who have been forced to step in in a hurry to make Mt. Abram competitive again.

“At this point I am happy to be .500 at this stage, for sure,” Pillsbury said. “We have a little bit of luck this year. I have got freshman-sophomore corps that has played a lot baseball and they have had some success.

“They go into a lot of games believing they can compete. Even when they are down, they still keep on battling. I think mentally success breeds success. I think that helps. I have only one junior and four seniors.”

But depth is also problem for the Roadrunners, who don’t have enough players to muster a junior varsity club.

“We have four kids on the bench,” Pillsbury said. “We have basically four subs when everybody is there.

“A lot of programs are struggling to field a JV team. Mt. Abram has a great track program and the coaches are doing a great job. I lost some kids to track.

“We start three freshmen and they are freshmen. They are tiny kids and they are playing with seniors. I was worried about the size and strength of the team.”

Principal player

Pillsbury, who is also the principal at Phillips Elementary School, took the job at the urging of his wife, Rebecca.

“My wife was the one that kept bugging me about coaching and she is pretty competitive,” Pillsbury said. “She thought I might be able to help in some small way.”

Pillsbury has to work around his demanding schedule of being a principal as well as coach a team that has endured hard times. He has three people lending a helping hand, allowing him to be flexible with his schedule. Lanie Roy, Jamie Phillips and junior varsity coach Scott Ladd, who agreed to stay on, have lent helping and caring hands.

“Between the four of us — and generally if I can’t get out of the building, I got people starting practice,” Pillsbury said. “Between the four of us, we piece meal stuff together.”

But Pillsbury enjoys the challenges and is proud of his athletes, who are having a lot fun, which of course comes from winning.

“What has kept us in games is that we continue to battle,” Pillsbury said. “We have come up with those timely hits. We have made a big play when we have needed to.

“The pitchers have thrown strikes when they needed to. Nothing has been easy. Every game has been a dogfight.”

But the Roadrunners are out of the doghouse and that’s all that matters — for the moment.

Mt. Abram baseball coach Jeff Pillsbury waits for the ball as he conducts practice just before the Roadrunners took on the Lisbon Greyhounds in Lisbon last week. (Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)


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