Maine high school baseball teams are facing two rules changes this season, though neither seems to have made much of an impact on games.
The rules are from National Federation of State High School Associations; Maine is a member.
One change requires a pitcher to keep his feet together when starting a delivery, rather than having one foot in front or to the side.
“It’s to differentiate between the stretch and the windup,” said Kevin Joyce, rules interpreter for the Western Maine Board of Approved Baseball Umpires. “A lot of times we couldn’t tell the difference between a stretch and a full windup. In a windup the feet have to be square to the mound.”
Joyce said the rule is to cut down on pitchers deceiving runners on pickoff moves.
The other rule concerns a batter’s backswing interfering with the catcher.
“In any situation someone has to be out – either the batter or the base runner,” Joyce said.
If a catcher doesn’t throw a runner out on a steal, the runner returns to the previous base and the batter is out. On a third strike, the batter and runner are both out.
The umpires held rules clinics with coaches before the season.
Joyce umpired a doubleheader Wednesday between Waynflete and Greater Portland Christian, and saw the Waynflete pitcher at the start with one foot on the rubber and the other outside.
“I just told him to move his feet closer together,” he said. “The first time around I’m going to give them a pass. They have to learn and sometimes the coaches don’t give them all the information.”
WITH A QUICK start to the season that included an impressive victory Tuesday against Scarborough, Marshwood looks to be in the hunt for the Western Class A title.
Last year, Marshwood lost to Westbrook in the regional final. The Blue Blazes went on to win the state championship.
If the Hawks are strong this season, they figure to be even stronger next year. The team starts all underclassmen with only two seniors listed on the roster.
Juniors Zack Quintal and Noah McDaniel, who man the left side of the infield at third and shortstop, respectively, have been starters since their freshman seasons.
“This junior class might be the strongest group of juniors I’ve had,” said Coach Eric Fernandes, who is in his eighth season.
Fernandes had a strong class when his son, Luke, who graduated two years ago, played. He is now playing at Boston College.
The first five hitters in the lineup are juniors. Quintal leads off, followed by Zach Hodges, McDaniel, Jake Lebel and Luke Stankovich. The rest of the order has three sophomores and a freshman. Several of them can play multiple positions, which adds to the team’s versatility.
Held to one hit by All-State pitcher Ben Greenberg through five innings, the Hawks finally caught up with him, banging out four hits for three runs in the top of the sixth.
Quintal, Hodges, McDaniel, Lebel and Stankovich started last season. The team graduated a strong group of seniors but the juniors have stepped up to lead the way.
Teams have low numbers in classes from time to time. When this senior class were freshmen, there wasn’t enough of them to have a freshman team. Other seniors decided not to play.
One senior, Jackson Foley, was put into the game Tuesday as a pinch runner in the sixth and scored the final run.
Fernandes is confident the Hawks will hit. He cited the adjustments they made at the plate against Greenberg, a hard thrower.
The only concern he has about the pitching is the lack of experience. Quintal and Lebel, the Nos. 1 and 2, pitched limited innings a year ago. The other pitchers are seeing their first varsity action. Hodges will be used as the closer. Patrick Fallon, another junior, is the third starter. Fernandes expects to get innings from Stankovich and McDaniel.
ALSO OFF to a fast start is Cheverus, which hasn’t let the chilly temperatures affect its hitting. In two games the Stags have seven extra-base hits. Cheverus has scored 24 runs and allowed one.
Chris Tinsman, a catcher/infielder, has a double, triple and home run, and shortstop Felix del Vecchio has driven in five runs.
In a 13-0 victory against Noble, del Vecchio hit a two-run triple in the first inning. Tinsman’s two-run homer to left-center had a little wind behind it but was still impressive.
The Stags entered the season knowing their No. 1 pitcher would be Mitchell Powers, who earned that designation last season.
He pitched six innings against Gorham as Coach Mac McKew closely monitored his pitch count. Sophomore Alex Jacobs pitched against Noble and didn’t allow a hit until the fifth, the only hit he allowed in a game stopped in the fifth by the mercy rule.
Cheverus will use a combination of pitchers to fill out its rotation with Peter Dutton and Jensen LaPoint likely the next in line.
SCARBOROUGH COACH Ryan Jones has Ben Greenberg leading off. Greenberg, who is bound for Fordham next season, is the Red Storm’s best hitter and batting him first allows him to get an extra at-bat in a seven- inning game.
“Ben has the ability to get on base and set the tone,” said Jones. “It can work for you and it can work against you. After the first inning you hope he gets up with men on base.”
Against Marshwood, Greenberg came up with one out and a runner on first in the seventh. It didn’t work out for the Red Storm when Greenberg grounded into a short-to-first double play.
The next time could be a different result.
“We did the same thing two years ago when Joe Cronin batted first for us,” said Jones, who was an assistant coach to Mike Coutts that season.
Cronin is now playing for Boston College.
The early reviews of a new rule that limits the number of players on the draw circle have been positive.
Girls’ lacrosse teams in Maine can have only two players on the edge of the faceoff circle, in addition to the two players taking the draw. Coaches appreciate the impact it’s had on the sport.
“It just cleans things up so we’re going more toward the college game,” Scarborough Coach Marcia Wood said.
The rule mimics the way the game is played at the collegiate level.
Kennebunk Coach Annie Barker said it emphasizes the need for a strong faceoff specialist.
“Your draw person really needs to get it to herself or one of those two people on the circle,” she said. “It’s not as much of a scrum as it used to be because everybody used to run in. It’s actually much cleaner if you have a good draw person.”
– Staff Writer Mark Emmert contributed to this report