HARRINGTON, Maine — Less than 36 hours earlier, ice scrapers and snow shovels were the tools of the trade for Mainers trying to rid themselves of one more meteorological poke in the eye from Mother Nature.
But Thursday afternoon belonged not to any lingering traces of a harsh winter but the boys of summer. Narraguagus High School hosted Eastern Maine’s first countable game of the 2014 baseball season, earning a 9-3 victory over Calais.
Wet spring snow that fell in the area Wednesday morning was replaced by a dry field and brisk conditions under a sun-splashed sky, nearly perfect Down East baseball weather for mid-April.
“Probably last week I figured we’d be in good shape to play, once the snow left the field,” said ninth-year Narraguagus coach Shawn Hatt. “We had a little snow left in front of the dugouts, but that was it. This field is so good at being ready, we’re usually a week ahead of everyone else for getting outside.”
And while the field was topped by two inches of snow early Wednesday, it was gone in a matter of hours — allowing the Knights to get in one more outside practice later that day before making the season debut.
“We had our first practice [outside] last Friday, and our field’s one of the better ones around, so I knew we’d get these first few games in,” said senior pitcher Spencer Thompson. “Our field drains good, so I knew we’d play.”
Thompson, for one, looked in midseason form as the right-hander pitched a six-hitter with 12 strikeouts — two in each of the first six innings — and just two walks issued to consecutive batters in the third inning.
“I knew coming in they were going to be a good hitting team,” said Thompson. “The fastball was working today, so I stuck with that, and halfway through, I decided to change it up and throw a little junk at them, curveballs, and it threw them off a bit.”
Thompson was backed by an 11-hit Narraguagus offense that included two doubles, a single and two runs batted in by first baseman Scott Wolley and a defense that committed just one error.
And while Narraguagus had been able to practice outside as well as play exhibition contests at Deer Isle-Stonington and George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill, Calais walked onto a baseball field for the first time this spring to play the Knights. The Blue Devils practiced outside for the first time on the school’s soccer field a day earlier.
That lack of familiarity with typical baseball conditions proved costly, as the Blue Devils committed four errors that led to four unearned runs.
“We made a few mistakes today, but that’s going to happen when you haven’t been outside that much,” said Hatt. “But we’ve been outside a few times, and it showed because they hadn’t been outside as much as we have.”
Narraguagus combined four hits, three walks and two Calais errors for a five-run uprising that broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the second inning.
Thompson drew a leadoff walk off Calais right-hander Kyle Johnson, then scored when Wolley doubled to deep right field. Hunter Dempsey hit a two-out RBI double and Nick Kennedy and Cole Willey added RBI singles to help fuel the rally.
The Knights extended the lead to 7-0 in the fifth, when Thompson singled home Devin Schoppee and scored on Wolley’s double to left-center.
Calais ended Thompson’s shutout bid in the top of the sixth as Greg Mitchell and Johnson hit one-out singles and scored on a two-out single by Conor McCadden.
Narraguagus got those runs back in the bottom of the inning, when Schoppee and Thompson singled and scored on an outfield error.
Mitchell singled home Andre Paul in the top of the seventh for Calais’ final run.
“It was a good win,” said Hatt, whose Narraguagus club graduated only two seniors from the 2013 squad that finished 9-7 and advanced to the Eastern Maine Class C quarterfinals. “Calais always has a good team, and we’ve always been able to compete with them but could never seem to get over the hump against them, so it’s good to get off the schnide against them this year.”