YARMOUTH – Nick Whittaker remembers something Yarmouth soccer coach Mike Hagerty once told the team.

“Coach Hagerty said you don’t want to look back on your high school career and be disappointed,” said Whittaker, a star pitcher for the Clippers.

Whittaker played midfield last fall in soccer and Hagerty’s words struck a chord.

“It really motivated me to improve,” he said.

In Whittaker’s case, that meant spending the winter lifting weights, running and working with a pitching instructor.

“Over the winter I really focused on getting stronger and improving my mechanics,” said Whittaker, a 6-foot-4 senior right-hander. “I lifted weights Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I ran Tuesday and Saturday. Thursday I took pitching lessons.”

This season Whittaker has had more confidence. He’s gained velocity on his fastball, and his control, which hurt him last year, is much improved.

“I’ve been able to focus on my location,” he said.

Whittaker struck out nine and hit a two-run homer Wednesday to lead the second-seeded Clippers to an 8-6 win over seventh-ranked Gray-New Gloucester in a Western Class B quarterfinal. Yarmouth (16-1) will be at home against third-seeded Lincoln Academy (12-5) in the semifinals at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Recently the Western Maine Conference Class B coaches named Whittaker the league’s Class B player of the year.

Whittaker, who has a 7-0 record, 60 strikeouts in 411/3 innings and a 1.86 earned-run average, has been equally impressive on offense. His home run in the quarterfinals gave him five on the season. Whittaker also has a .438 batting average with 27 RBI.

“I learned Tuesday at practice,” said Whittaker of the player of the year award. “We didn’t get a lot of publicity during the regular season. It’s not only an individual honor but a team honor as well. I think it’s great.”

Whittaker has been playing baseball since third grade. He wasn’t going to play that year but a friend’s father called and said the local Little League needed players and would he be interested in playing.

“I struck out every time up my first game, but by the second game I was hitting a few pitches and fell in love with baseball,” he said.

Whittaker was a catcher early on, but also did some pitching.

“I was the big kid on the team when I started to play,” he said.

Whittaker started focusing on pitching as a freshman. He was still the big kid on the team, but now had some skill to go with his size. Whittaker’s improvement has gone hand and hand with the team’s.

Whittaker and the other eight seniors and juniors are part of the resurgence of Yarmouth baseball.

“We’ve gone from finishing in 13th place when the seniors were freshmen to 11th as sophomores, 10th as juniors and now second,” said Coach Marc Halsted.

“We’ve become a much better program and Nick has been there every step of the way. He has learned to keep the ball down.

“Nick has been dominant on at least three occasions this spring. He’s a senior pitcher and that’s what you look for. Even if he wasn’t a pitcher, he would be a leader for us with what he’s done at the plate. He’s had an incredible year with the bat.”

The statistic that jumps out is Whittaker’s 19-4 career record, beginning with his sophomore year.

Last summer, Whittaker’s 11-strikeout performance against Libby-Mitchell Post of Scarborough during the American Legion season caught the eye of Will Sanborn, the St. Joseph’s College coach. Sanborn coached the Scarborough team last summer. Whittaker is looking forward to pitching for the Monks next year.

“I’ll probably start out in the bullpen. I looked at some other schools over the Internet but St. Joe’s was the best opportunity for me to play baseball,” he said.

Second baseman Travis Merrill has played with Whittaker since Little League.

“We call Nick our gentle giant,” said Merrill. “He throws hard and hits his spots. His curve has improved and he’s proven to be a dominant force.”

Yarmouth has had a turnaround regular season. The Clippers hope their year ends with a Class B state title, but if it doesn’t, Whittaker can still look back at his high school career and not be disappointed.

 

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

[email protected]