STACYVILLE, Maine — The Katahdin High School baseball Class of 2009 has had success whenever it has been challenged.
It began with a district championship in Little League and a strong showing at the Junior League level against teams from much larger communities.
And last spring the Cougars broke through on the high school level, winning an Eastern Maine title.
This year, the 10 surviving seniors in the program are focused on one final goal — best in class statewide.
“Last year didn’t end the way we wanted,” said senior infielder Josh Guiggey, whose team was edged by Rangeley 3-2 in the Class D state championship game. “This year the big thing is mental toughness.”
Katahdin is hoping to follow the same path Rangeley did to its first state championship since 1993, as Rangeley lost to Deer Isle-Stonington in the 2007 state final before surmounting that final obstacle against the Cougars last spring.
Few teams will enter a season with as much experience as the group Katahdin coach Marty McCarthy is putting through its preseason drills in the school gymnasium while the infield on the Cougars’ home diamond continues to dry and the remaining snow and ice melt from the outfield.
Just one player graduated from last year’s 16-2 squad, leaving behind 17 teammates with a collective goal of filling an empty space in the gymnasium wall — next to the school’s 2008 Class D state championship banner for boys soccer.
“The kids are working hard here in the gym, they’re very focused on what they want to do,” said McCarthy.
Ask the Cougars the strength of this year’s team, and they’re hard pressed to decide between two factors — team chemistry and pitching.
“Everybody’s been playing together for a long time,” said senior catcher Evan McCarthy, the coach’s son. “We all get along.”
As for the pitching, Katahdin features senior Andy Kay, one of the more highly regarded righthanders in Eastern Maine regardless of class — as evidenced by his 15-strikeout, one-hit shutout in Katahdin’s 3-0 victory over rival Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook in the 2008 EM final. He’s come back bigger and stronger this year after a summer of American Legion competition along with a rigorous weight training program he shared with several of his teammates.
Evan McCarthy, a righthander who pitched solidly in the 2008 state final, should see more duty on the mound this year after battling a sore arm last spring, while Guiggey, senior Andy Hawkins and sophomore Brandon Robinson all are capable in big-game situations.
Katahdin was a clutch hitting team a year ago, but the Cougars are hoping to become even more consistent at the plate this spring.
“We’ve been working hard on our hitting,” said senior outfielder Ethan Qualey. “That’s one thing we’re really working to improve.”
The Cougars understand their status as a preseason favorite in Eastern D. But as they prepare for their April 27 season opener at Fort Fairfield, they also understand that with the role of favorite comes motivated challengers such as Southern Aroostook, Woodland, Shead of Eastport and Ashland.
Yet the Katahdin baseball Class of 2009 has been building toward this season for the better part of a decade — since winning the District 3 Little League championship in 2003, and then placing second to Bangor three years later in the District 3 Junior League tournament.
“I remember the year we won District 3, we played against Augusta West in the state Little League tournament,” said Evan McCarthy. “We lost to them [4-2], but we played pretty well. I remember seeing them play [in the New England championship game on TV] against Saugus, Mass., and I thought to myself that if we could play with them we could probably play with about anybody.
“We’ve played some good competition over the years, and it’s given us a lot of confidence.”
Athletic administrators honored
Matt Lash of Medomak Valley of Waldoboro and Bob White of Caribou were among those honored by the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association during its annual spring conference held at the Samoset Resort in Rockport.
Lash was presented the MIAA Past President Special Achievement Award for his work at Medomak Valley. He was selected for the statewide award from among athletic administrators selected by their respective conferences.
White, a longtime soccer official, rules interpreter and regional wrestling administrator, was presented the Larry LaBrie MIAAA Distinguished Service Award.
Craig Sickels of Freeport High School, a 25-year veteran administrator who has served also as an interim principal and assistant middle school assistant principal, was named the recipient of the Robert Lahey MIAAA Athletic Administrator of the Year.
Sickels recently concluded his basketball coaching career at Freeport, and he has been an administrative leader in the Western Maine Conference. A two-time member of the MIAAA board of directors, he currently serves as the organization’s second vice president.
Todd Sampson, athletic administrator at Westbrook, received the Keith Lancaster MIAAA Award for Professional Development for work he has completed in assisting with statewide leadership training, becoming a certified test administrator and also for his work on the national level in conducting leadership training programs.
Others recognized were Dale Duff of WZON radio, MIAAA Media Award for Electronic Media; Kevin Mills of the Lewiston Sun Journal, MIAAA Media Award for Print Media; Keith Weatherbie, formerly of Cape Elizabeth High School, MIAAA/Maine Sports Hall of Fame Retiree Award; Jack Nivison, Winslow High School field maintenance, MIAAA Distinguished Service Award-Local Level; Peter Brown, former principal and athletic and administrator at Jay High School, Martin Ryan Award of Excellence.
Gerry Durgin, athletic administrator at Gorham High School, and Jim Murphy, athletic administrator at George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill, were presented awards for their work in MIAAA management upon their retirement from their management positions.
Jeff Sturgis, assistant executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association, was honored for his lengthy service to Maine interscholastic athletics upon his pending retirement from the MPA.
Spencer competes at nationals
Four-time individual state champion Travis Spencer of Belfast capped off his high school wrestling career with his appearance over the weekend at the 20th annual National Senior High School Wrestling Championships at Virginia Beach, Va.
Spencer, whose sixth-place finish at last year’s nationals earned him All-America honors, finished 1-2 at this year’s meet — with both losses one-point decisions.
Spencer drew a first-round bye among the 59 wrestlers in the 189-pound weight class, then pinned Jose Garnica of North Carolina in 3 minutes, 49 seconds of his opening match.
Spencer then lost to Samuel Kuntz of Georgia and Daniel Mitchell of Colorado by identical 4-3 scores to be eliminated from contention. Kuntz went on to finish sixth in the weight class.