Their northern locale among high school baseball programs typically doesn’t lend itself to championship playoff runs.
But the Presque Isle Wildcats, who last won a regional title in 1951, are playing like a team determined to buck that trend.
Coach Tim Olore’s club featured both pitching and defense while sweeping John Bapst 6-2 and 5-0 at Husson University on Saturday to move up to second place in the Eastern Maine Class B Heal points, trailing only two-time defending state champion Waterville.
“The pitchers have been doing the job, my defense has been doing the job, now if we can add the hitting part, which we’re starting to … I like this team,” said Olore, now in his 28th season as Presque Isle’s head coach.
That pitching and defense combination has enabled the 11-1 Wildcats to limit opponents to an average of just 1.9 runs per outing heading into Tuesday’s scheduled game at Class C Fort Kent.
The pitching staff is anchored by senior righthander Ryley Norton (3-1) and sophomore righthander Saul Nunez (6-0), who allowed a combined nine hits and two runs during the doubleheader sweep of John Bapst.
“With Ryley Norton and Saul Nunez, you could see this coming starting last year,” said Olore, whose team finished 7-9 in 2011 and did not qualify for postseason play. “They pitch ahead, they both have a good number two pitch, which in Ryley’s case is a slider and for Saul is a curve, and they’re starting to change speeds.
“When you’re throwing strikes and pitching ahead, your defense is much more awake, and because our defense can go and get it you don’t always have to make that perfect pitch and that helps, too.”
The Wildcats also are anchored by their five seniors, which include most of their up-the-middle defense in shortstop Wilder York, center fielder Isaac LaJoie and catcher Jacob Player along with Norton at pitcher and third base and first baseman Evan Waddell.
Other key contributors include junior second baseman Jonah Stephenson and sophomore left fielder Tyler Seeley, who like York earned All-Penobscot Valley Conference honors last spring.
“This is a real nice group of kids, I really enjoy working with them,” said Olore. “They’re fun, they like to work and they don’t give up, they have heart.”
Presque Isle has been involved in plenty of close games this spring, compiling an 8-1 record in contests decided by four or fewer runs.
The team also is 7-1 in the four doubleheaders it has played in so far this spring in order to minimize travel considerations, with sweeps of Hermon, Old Town and John Bapst and a split of one-run decisions to Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor on May 12.
“These guys have been playing in a lot of close games since last year to now,” said Olore, “so that’s nothing new for them.
The Wildcats also got off to a fast start this spring, opening their season by traveling south to sweep road doubleheaders at Hermon and Old Town on back-to-back days April 20 and 21. That nearly instant 4-0 record was aided by some unusually early outdoor practices on the local artificial-surface soccer field.
“We got to practice on the turf before the snow melted off our field and that helped us a lot,” said Waddell.
Presque Isle has four regular-season games remaining in its effort to earn a top-two seed in Eastern B, which would guarantee it home field advantage until the regional final scheduled for June 13 at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
After visiting Fort Kent, the Wildcats will host Washington Academy of East Machias in a Memorial Day doubleheader, then complete its schedule May 30 at Caribou — a team it defeated 3-2 on May 15.
“These kids like to play baseball and they’ll fight for me and that’s all I can ask,” said Olore. “If we come up short, we’ll come up short fighting.”
Youthful veterans top singles tennis field
A fairly experienced field of top tennis players will converge on Colby College in Waterville this weekend as the state singles tournament continues at the 10-court Alfond-Wales complex.
Six of the top eight boys seeds and three of the top four girls seeds from last year’s event are back to challenge for the individual championships.
The Rounds of 48 and 32 will be held Friday, followed by the Round of 16 and quarterfinals Saturday and the semifinals and finals on Monday, Memorial Day.
The boys field is led by top-seed and defending state champion Patrick Ordway, a junior from the Waynflete School in Portland. Justin Brogan of Falmouth, who lost to Ordway in last year’s final but owns an early season victory over him this year, is the second seed after being ranked third in 2011.
Others among the top eight last year who are back to contend this weekend and their 2012 seeds are Matt Gilman (3), a 2011 semifinalist from Cape Elizabeth, Tyler Adams (4) of Bonny Eagle of Standish, Jordan Friedland (5) of Lincoln Academy of Newcastle and Tyler Small (6) of Ellsworth.
Small, a senior, advanced to the quarterfinals in 2011 as the No. 8 seed before being ousted by Ordway.
Other boys seeds are No. 7 Jordan Doutreluigne, a Belgian exchange student from Oceanside of Rockland-Thomaston, Brendan McCarthy (8) of Falmouth, the No. 12 seed a year ago, along with Satchel McCarthy (9) of Cape Elizabeth, Jesse Butler (10) of Deering of Portland, Sam Leeman (11) of Morse of Bath and Patrick Stewart (12) of Bangor.
The girls’ field features top-ranked Maisie Silverman, a sophomore from Brunswick who was the state runnerup as the No. 3 seed in 2011. Senior Annie Criscione of Falmouth is the second seed for the second straight year, while teammate and classmate Analise Kump moves up one spot to the third seed this year.
Mea Clark, a sophomore from Mount Desert Island in Bar Harbor who reached the quarterfinals as the No. 9 seed a year ago before being ousted by eventual champion Maria Varano of Kennebunk, is seeded fourth this year.
Other seeded players in the girls field are Olivia Leavitt (5) of Falmouth, Addie Devine (6) and Devri Ramsey (7) of McAuley of Portland, Colleen O’Donnell (8) of Waterville, Ashley Woodside (9) of Hampden Academy, Shashanna Moll (10) of Belfast, Kaitlin Thompson (11) of Saint Dominic of Auburn and co-No. 12 seeds Emily Campbell of York and Emma Blakeley of Camden Hills of Rockport.