Monmouth infielders get Winthrop baserunner Jake Carter in a pickle between second and third and second during a Mountain Valley Conference game in Monmouth earlier this season. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

The Winthrop Ramblers will make the transition from the first half of their schedule to the second half starting this week with nine games jammed into a little over two weeks.

Rather than complain about the schedule Mother Nature gave his team, Winthrop coach Dave Theriault is looking forward to the daily grind.

“All of the other teams are going to be roughly in the same boat, as well,” Theriault said. “They’re all going to have back-to-back-to-back games. I think that we’ve got the arms to do it. We’ve got the leadership to do it. I’m very optimistic that the second half will be as good as the first.”

Although their 5-2 start has the Ramblers ranked fifth in the Class C South Heal point standings and in the mix for a bye to the quarterfinals and at least one home playoff game, they are happy to welcome any reinforcements for a second half that includes two games with unbeaten Lisbon and one with defending Class C champion Hall-Dale.

Junior Cameron Hachey may just be the mid-season help the Ramblers need.

“We hope to get him back this week,” Theriault said.

Theriault plans to bring Hachey back slowly as he continues to recover from a high ankle sprain suffered at the end of Winthrop’s Class C state championship basketball season. Adding him to a pitching staff led by junior ace Ryan Baird should help the Ramblers down the stretch.

“We do have a lot of kids who can pitch well,” Theriault said. “I do have a lot of pitching, and I’m going to need it. We’re all going to need it.”

Theriault believes Lisbon has emerged as the favorite in C South after the first half of the season, but also thinks teams from the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Western Maine Conference could challenge for one of the top two seeds in the region. The Ramblers will have to pull off an upset or two to be in that mix.

“I think there’s a large group of teams in the middle, but you’ve got to deal with Lisbon, and, I think, Maranacook, too,” Theriualt said.

“We need to beat somebody who’s above us. We’ve got to climb the ladder,” Theriault said.

Newcomers key to Greyhounds’ perfect start

Lisbon (7-0) sits atop the C South Heals and is the only remaining unbeaten team in the region.

Wins over Mountain Valley and Hall-Dale have highlighted a first half in which the Greyhounds outscored the opposition 90-6. But things will get a bit tougher over the next week with Monmouth, Mt. Abram, Spruce Mountain and Winthrop on the docket.

“We’ve been fortunate so far this year,” Lisbon coach Randy Ridley said. “Losing a good part of the lineup from last year, with the first-year varsity players coming in, we still are a very inexperienced as a group playing varsity baseball. But everybody has stepped right up to the plate, so to speak, and they’ve taken on their roles on very well and they’ve been playing well so far this year.”

Lisbon boasted two of the MVC’s best in Lucas Francis and Noah Austin, as well as 2018 second team all-conference selection DJ Douglass. While Ridley knew that trio would form a strong nucleus, particularly on the mound, there were questions how much help they would get in the field and at the plate.

Junior newcomers such as Levi Levesque and Jack Tibbets and 2018 part-timer Neil LaRochelle, a sophomore, have lengthened the Greyhounds’ lineup and helped the big bats get good pitches to hit.

“The goal was to find who was going to protect Lucas and Noah in the lineup,” Ridley said. “I told Lucas and Noah before the first game started that until these guys hit the ball and could be feared, they had to be ready for the possibility that they’d be walked a lot, and it hasn’t happened yet. Some teams have got to pick their poison.”

“It seems like anytime someone comes up, we have an opportunity to score a run, no matter where it is in the lineup,” Ridley said.

Ridley credited his players with staying focused and working hard through the inclement weather that has kept them indoors for an inordinate number of practices.

Strong starts by Douglass and Levesque and LaRochelle’s effectiveness closing out a few wins have kept Ridley from having to lean on Francis and Austin on the mound, too. Both will do more of the heavy lifting in May and June, but have already done a good job of preparing the less-experienced players to do their share.

“Noah and Lucas have done a wonderful job as leaders with this new crew of kids on the team, guiding them along the way, how to do things the right way on the field. They’re always communicating with the kids in whatever situation comes up,” Ridley said.

Cougars get confidence boost

One day before Lisbon took out preseason favorite Hall-Dale, Dirigo handed the defending state champions their first loss of the season, 5-4, with a four-run rally in the bottom of the seventh.

It was the third win in a row for the Cougars (4-2) but the first to give them a measurable bump in the Heal points.

“We’re starting to get some good pitching and some timely hits, so that always helps,” Dirigo coach Ryan Palmer said. “We’re starting to jell together as a team at the right time.”

“(Beating Hall-Dale) is huge for our confidence because we were down 4-1 going into the last inning,” said Palmer, whose team beat Telstar and Bridgeway (Madison/Carrabec) to start the streak. “We really came together after that win. Practice the next day was really fun and loose, and I think everybody’s back to really enjoying playing baseball again and working hard.”

Nevertheless, Dirigo still needs to make some hay in the next week with Mt. Abram, Spruce Mountain and Winthrop on the slate. They face rival Mountain Valley for the first time this season on May 21 at Hosmer Field.

That stretch could determine whether Dirigo can extend its season. The Cougars are at a disadvantage compared to other teams in the tournament hunt because they play Boothbay and Wiscasset twice each. Those teams are a combined 2-13 and don’t have a lot of Heal points to offer opponents.

“This week ahead is really our season,” Palmer said. “If we can get two-out-of-three, we’ll be sitting pretty because these three games are all teams that we lost to last year.”

Palmer will be counting on sophomore Cole Brown and junior Mike Packard, who have given the Cougars quality innings this season, to help them. The offense could also get a boost from senior Chandler Redmond, who had the game-winning hit against Hall-Dale.

“That was big hit for him,” Palmer said. “Hopefully a hit like that can really propel him because he’d been struggling the first few games at the plate.”