LIMESTONE, Maine — Things weren’t going so well for Chris Bernier as he opened the baseball season on the mound for Limestone-Maine School of Science and Mathematics recently.
Four batters into the game he had already yielded two walks, a double and a single, and the Eagles already trailed Ashland 3-0 without an out recorded.
“I thought it was going to go bad after the first few batters,” Bernier said.
But Glenn Michaud, who came out of retirement to coach the team this spring, made a brief trip to the mound to calm down the sophomore righthander, and what followed was near-perfection.
Bernier struck out the next three batters he faced to end the inning, and ultimately faced just 22 batters overall after the chat with his coach — striking out 20 of them while allowing no hits and just one more walk as Limestone earned the 11-3 victory.
“It was my first start of the season, I guess I was a little nervous,” said the 6-foot-4-inch Bernier. “I just started to get into my rhythm, and bending my back more.
“But when I struck out the next three guys it built my confidence a lot.”
The only ball that was put into play by Ashland after Michaud’s chat with Bernier was a comebacker to the mound that Bernier fielded cleanly and then threw to first base for the out.
And despite the high number of strikeouts, Bernier’s pitch count wasn’t high — approximately 85-90 for the seven-inning Class D contest.
“My curveball worked real well, along with a lot of fastballs,” said Bernier, who worked closely with freshman catcher Dylan Nadeau during the contest. “I worked a lot on my placement, hitting the inside and outside corners. I never want to put it down the middle.”
Bernier had no idea how fast the strikeouts were accumulating.
“I was just pitching,” he said. “I didn’t know how many strikeouts I had until the end of the game. I knew I had a lot, but I didn’t know it was 20.”
Bernier is no newcomer to the varsity baseball scene, having earned several starts on the mound last spring for a Limestone team that finished with a 6-10 record.
“I take pride in my pitching,” said Bernier, who also plays on the school’s soccer and basketball teams. “I’ve been pitching since I was 4.”
Bernier is the staff ace this spring on a youthful Eagles’ roster with just one senior starter, so he likely will be asked to take on a leadership role both on and off the field.
“For a 15-year-old he’s very mature,” Michaud said. “He’s got a great fastball and so good of a curveball that sometimes umpires miss the call. He’s also got a knuckle curve. He’s very involved with his pitching.”
Bernier was scheduled to make his next pitching start Tuesday afternoon at Central Aroostook of Mars Hill, part of a busy week for 1-1 Limestone in which it plays four games in five days.
Bangor tennis team sends early message
There may be a changing of the guard in Eastern Maine Class A boys tennis this spring.
Bangor’s 5-0 victory at Lewiston on Saturday marked just the Blue Devils’ second regular-season defeat since the start of the 2003 season and only their third loss overall during that span.
But while Lewiston — which has won eight of the last nine Class A state championships and the last nine Eastern Maine crowns — is rebuilding with a new coach in Tom LeBlond and a roster that includes just two full-time veterans back from a year ago in Brett Vallee and Ben Chicoine, Bangor has returned its entire starting lineup from the 2011 team that finished with a 10-4 record after advancing to the Eastern A semifinals before dropping a 3-2 decision to Hampden Academy.
Six seniors head up coach Cindi Howard’s roster, led by 2011 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference first-team all-star Patrick Stewart at first singles and All-KVAC second-teamer John Szewczyk at second singles.
Sophomore Sam Bolduc is back for his second year at No. 3 singles.
Bangor’s doubles teams also are back intact, with seniors Chris Howat and Connor Griffin at first doubles and classmates Kris Bears and Robby Brookings at second doubles. Both teams were All-KVAC second-team honorees a year ago.
Bangor did not drop a set in handing Lewiston its first defeat of the season, and is 19-1 in individual matches in its victories over Lewiston, Hampden Academy, Skowhegan and Cony of Augusta to open the season and 38-6 in individual sets through that 4-0 start.
The Rams got their toughest test to date against Hampden on Monday, defeating the Broncos 4-1. Bangor got straight-set victories at first singles and second doubles, then won two of three three-set matches to clinch the victory over the previously unbeaten Broncos, now 3-1.
Bangor, incidentally, is the last Eastern Maine team other than Lewiston to win the Class A state championship in boys tennis, that coming in 2002.