STANDISH – The breeze was freshening when Todd Keneborus stepped into the batter’s box Tuesday. Which is another way of saying one of St. Joseph’s College’s better hitters could feel the raw dampness on his face.

If he actually let himself feel another day of this spring’s miserable weather. That’s the trick when you play baseball in Maine while the calendar says its April and your body insists it feels like late November. Don’t think about the cold. Don’t give in. Mind over matter.

“I’ve got a little routine when I’m waiting on deck,” said Mike Eaton, whose 10 home runs leads the University of Southern Maine. “I clear my head.”

He didn’t say if that meant imagining a long soak in a hot tub or a spot on a Caribbean beach. He did say he never thought of playing small college baseball in Virginia or the Carolinas, where outfielders already are working on tans. “I’m a Mainer,” said Eaton. “I always wanted to play ball at USM.”

To hit successfully, batters have to be relaxed enough to react to the location, speed and movement of the pitch. That’s difficult when a bitter wind stings eyes and numbs muscles.

“It’s worse when you hit one off the end of your bat,” said Alex Lorenc, a freshman designated hitter and sometime catcher for St. Joseph’s. “Your hands feel that for a long time, they’re so cold.”

If Lorenc happens to be working behind the plate, catching the wrong kind of heat from his pitcher, the meat of his thumb down to his palm will send signals of protest. The cold makes the soreness linger. He doesn’t think about it.

St. Joseph’s played Great Northeast Athletic Conference rival Norwich on Tuesday at home while over in Gorham, the University of Southern Maine played nonconference rival Thomas, winning, 23-3. “The hits just seemed to be dropping in,” said Eaton, who had two of the team’s 27.

The temperature at St. Joseph’s was 52 on a day that was becoming foggier as the afternoon approached early evening. A few umbrellas opened to ward off the mist. Compared to last Saturday’s Senior Day, this weather was balmy. Check out the photo on the St. Joseph’s website: senior players skooched down in front of their parents, smiling — or grimacing –at a camera lens that also captured spitting snow mixing with rain.

“You can’t think about it,” said Will Sanborn, the longtime St. Joseph’s coach and a native Mainer. “Weather is like the umpires. You can’t control either.”

Sanborn, with his long memory, won’t call this the worst spring for baseball. It’s just that last spring, with its run of sunny days in the 60s and 70s, was wonderful.

After beating Norwich 4-3 to clinch first place in the conference, players rolled out the tarp to protect the infield from Tuesday night’s expected rain.

Someone muttered that after about 16 or 17 tarp-rolling sessions this spring, they’d qualify for work with the Fenway Park grounds crew.’

In this economy, that’s not a bad thing to know.

Keneborus shrugged when I tried to steer him back to cold weather. His long fly to center was dropped, sending a run home and allowing St. Joseph’s to tie Norwich at 3-3. He’s a senior right fielder from Hollis Center and a Cheverus High grad. Earlier this month he went 14 for 22 at the plate for a .636 average and 9 RBI for conference player of the week.

Lorenc, from New York’s lower Hudson River Valley, hit .400, drove in eight runs and was named conference rookie of the week. Obviously they’ve had success at the plate.

How? See the ball, hit the ball, they chorused. “I grew up in Maine,” said Keneborus. “I’m a hockey player. I’m used to doing things in the cold. There are no excuses, really. You focus.”

Lorenc grew up in the New York City suburb of Nanuet, about an hour from Times Square. Where a lasting spring comes much earlier. “I knew it was going to be cold. You blow on your hands a lot.”

And don’t think about it.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: [email protected]