HERMON, Maine – The Hermon High School baseball team hosted Washington Academy of East Machias in its final game of the regular season Tuesday without its original head coach.
Junior varsity coach Justin Perry was appointed last Friday morning as the Hawks’ interim varsity coach for the remainder of the season, replacing first-year coach Aaron Brideau, according to Hermon athletic administrator Paul Soucy.
Soucy would not divulge a reason for the coaching change, calling it a personnel matter.
In response to an email Tuesday seeking comment about his coaching status, Brideau on Wednesday afternoon wrote, “At this time I don’t plan on coaching at Hermon next year. A real good group of kids there though, definitely had our ups and downs but came on strong at the end of the season.”
The coaching change is believed to be related to the circumstances involving a batter being hit by a pitch during the fifth inning of the Hawks’ 11-1, five-inning loss at Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft on May 16.
Foxcroft took a 7-1 lead into the bottom of the fifth and needed to score four runs to end the game early under the 10-run rule. With a doubleheader looming two days later against Caribou, the Ponies were eager to shorten the contest in an effort to save their pitching staff two innings of work.
Foxcroft had a run in and a runner on third base with one out when Brooks Law laid down a successful suicide-squeeze bunt single that drove home a run to make it 9-1.
Caleb Richard then came up to hit, and during his at-bat Law stole both second and third bases before Richard was hit in the left elbow by a 3-2 pitch — the pitch right after Law reached third via Foxcroft’s 16th stolen base of the game.
“It did seem suspicious because they were clearly getting very frustrated and it felt like the pitcher really reared back and put something extra on that pitch,” said Foxcroft coach Mark Chevalier. “I said so to the umpire and he kind of agreed but we both said that we know there’s no way to prove intent so there was nothing we could do about it.”
Richard was forced to leave the game immediately after being struck by the pitch, just before teammate Ryan Rebar hit a two-run triple that ended the contest.
Richard, a senior infielder, missed the team’s Senior Day home games against Caribou but has since returned to the starting lineup.
“While we were upset about the beaning when it happened and were disappointed to hear some of the details that have since come to light, we feel that justice has been served and are not going to hold a grudge against a bunch of kids who are just trying to go out and win baseball games,” said Chevalier. “We’ve had several hard-fought games with Hermon over the past few years, and I always felt that there was a mutual respect between our program and theirs. We’ve never had an incident with them, or with anyone else for that matter. Our kids play the game hard, and they play it the right way. People who understand baseball can see that.”
“We’re just thankful that Caleb wasn’t injured more seriously. He’s a great kid who has earned the respect of everyone who’s seen him play, and it would have been devastating to see him miss the end of his senior year because of something like this.”
Hermon officials reportedly became aware of the incident last Thursday, a week after it occurred, and turned to Perry on an interim basis the next day.
Brideau is a former baseball player at Husson University in Bangor. He later coached with the Hampden-Hermon American Legion baseball program before joining the coaching staff at Husson from 2008 to 2012. With the Eagles, he served as the pitching coach and also was involved in the team’s conditioning program as well as its recruiting efforts in Canada.
Brideau took over at Hermon this spring for Doug McGinley, who left the post after six seasons because of job considerations.
Perry has coached the Hawks’ last three games, a doubleheader split at Presque Isle on Saturday and Tuesday’s game against Washington Academy — a 5-3 victory that moved 7-9 Hermon into 14th place, temporarily one spot out of the race for the final playoff slot in Eastern Maine Class B.
Aggressive baserunning has been a hallmark of Foxcroft’s offensive strategy in recent years.
The Ponies stole 105 bases in 2011 when they reached the Eastern Maine Class C title game and had 98 stolen bases last season when they won the Eastern B championship.
This spring, the 13-2 Ponies have stolen 94 bases with one game left in the regular season.
“We don’t have a lot of home run hitters,” said Chevalier. “Our philosophy is we have nine hitters who grind out at-bats. We take walks when we can, we bunt when we can. We certainly run at every opportunity we get until someone stops us, and just in general we’re going to keep playing the game our way at least until we get to a mercy-rule situation.
“We entered the bottom of the fifth inning with a 7-1 lead, and we set a goal of scoring four runs and ending the game right there and we’re certainly not going to play a different brand of baseball to score those four runs.”
The regular season concludes statewide on Friday.