Penobscot Valley High School of Howland was due to travel to Milo on Thursday afternoon to play its eighth baseball game in 11 days.
On Friday, the Howlers will hold their first full outdoor practice of the spring.
“We had one brief infield practice just before our first game, and outside of that we haven’t had one outside practice,” said second-year PVHS coach Ryan Lincoln. “Either we’ve had a game, it’s rained, or it’s been Sunday.”
While elements of the game better taught outdoors have been left for actual game situations, the lack of practice time in the elements hasn’t hurt the Howlers. They went into Thursday’s game at Penquis of Milo with a 10-2 record, riding an eight-game winning streak and ensconced among the leaders in Class D North.
That’s especially true on defense, where PVHS has a .946 team fielding percentage through the first three-quarters of its regular season.
“My kids’ baseball IQ is really high,” said Lincoln, “and because of that we were able to sit down in the gym and drill most of those things. Defensively we’ve been really sound. We had a couple of errors in our last game but I think that’s as much because the kids are a little tired from having so many games.”
Lincoln said Penobscot Valley’s home infield has been in good shape this spring thanks to a community effort a couple of years ago to install a new drainage system, but the outfield has been less receptive to the frequent rains of recent weeks.
“We were probably good to go by the second week of the season but with all the rain the water kept building up,” he said.
As a result the Howlers switched several home games until later in the season and finally began playing games at home last week.
PVHS starts only three seniors in Brady Harding, Austin Dube and pitching ace Johnny Littlefield. Harding and Dube returned to the team after playing tennis last spring.
But a strong junior class and several younger contributors have the Howlers poised to improve on their 11-5 regular-season record of a year ago.
A favorable late-season slate of home games prompted by early season rain shouldn’t hurt, either.
“We had three home games last week, we’ve got two this week and then we round out our season with three more at home next week though one against Stearns we’re playing at (Bangor’s) Mansfield Stadium,” Lincoln said.
Next week’s schedule should provide PVHS considerable late-season preparation as it pursues the program’s second regional championship in the last three years. A May 22 game against Stearns is followed by rematches with the only teams to defeat the Howlers this year — reigning Class D North champion Bangor Christian on May 24 and three-time defending state champion Searsport in the regular-season finale on May 26.
“I think we’re playing really good baseball now,” said Lincoln.
Prouty, Sund boost Bangor pitching
Pitching depth has been one of the pivotal factors behind Bangor High School’s streak of four consecutive Class A state championships.
Justin Courtney, Trevor DeLaite and Peter Kemble all matriculated from the Rams’ pitching staff to the University of Maine baseball program, while Jesse Colford has been a staff leader at Husson University for the last two years.
Andrew Hillier (now a first baseman at the University of Southern Maine) and Nick Cowperthwaite also have made major contributions to Bangor High School’s depth on the mound during the program’s title stretch.
Now, the Rams’ staff appears to be growing deeper as this season progresses.
Juniors Zach Cowperthwaite and Noah Missbrenner have stepped into the top two starting pitching slots vacated by the graduated Kemble and Nick Cowperthwaite.
They have been joined by sophomore Carson Prouty and senior Karl Sund, each of whom pitched a shutout earlier this week.
Prouty, one of the state’s top swimmers, already has amassed three saves as a first-year closer this spring. On Monday, he pitched a one-hitter with 11 strikeouts as Bangor shut out Mt. Blue 4-0 at Farmington.
He has a 1.93 earned run average with 20 strikeouts and seven walks over 14 innings for coach Dave Morris’ club.
Sund followed Prouty’s shutout with one of his own Wednesday, pitching a three-hitter as Bangor defeated Hampden Academy 7-0. It only the Broncos’ third loss of the spring and ended their eight-game winning streak.
Sund is now 4-0 with an 0.79 ERA in 26 1/3 innings pitched.
Bangor was ranked second in Class A North with 11-1 record heading into Thursday’s home game against top-ranked and undefeated Edward Little of Auburn.
The Rams went into that game with three shutouts this spring and seven games in which its pitchers allowed one run or less.
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