No-hitters are relatively rare at any level of baseball or softball.
But they were commonplace in the Graham household late last month.
In a span of eight days, Houlton High School junior Cameron Graham sandwiched a pair of baseball no-hitters around one in softball by sister Kristen Graham.
“It was neat. It made you feel proud as a parent. Their mother [Angela] and I are avid supporters,” said Shawn Graham, who has coached both during their careers.
Cameron, a left-hander, pitched no-hitters against Limestone Community School/Maine School of Science and Mathematics on May 23 and May 30.
Kristen, a righty, held Calais hitless on May 27 at Calais.
“It’s definitely something special,” said Kristen.
“I ragged on her after I threw my no-hitter but then she threw her no-hitter against Calais and she got on me. Then I threw my second one,” quipped Cameron, who had pitched his first no-hitter last spring in a Class C preliminary playoff game against Piscataquis Community High School of Guilford.
Kristen said that before the Calais game, her father sent her a text in which he “wished me good luck and told me to pitch a no-hitter.
“I told him I didn’t think it was going to happen but I’ll try,” said Kristen.
After the no-hitter, that was the buzz on the bus as the two teams returned home.
“My brother didn’t say much. He said, ’I’ll get you back,’” joked Kristen.
They come from a baseball household.
Shawn and his brother, Montie, played baseball at Hodgdon High School and were coached by their uncle, Wayne Dwyer.
Shawn Graham was the varsity baseball coach at Houlton for eight years but stepped down so he could watch his kids play.
Cameron and Kristen began pitching at an early age.
Cameron has always been a pitcher but his sister had another position in mind at first.
“I wanted to be a catcher. But my dad said no,” said Kristen, who became a pitcher in her second year of Little League softball. “Once I pitched, I fell in love with it and I’ve wanted to keep doing it ever since.”
They have their similarities and differences, according to Shawn.
“Both have a pretty good fastball,” said their father. “Cameron has always had that No. 2 or 3 pitch, a curve or a changeup. Kristen is just developing her changeup. She’s also working on her drop ball.”
They are both having productive springs in addition to their no-hitters.
Cameron has a 6-0 record and the Shiretowners are 16-0 and wound up second in the Class C North Heal Point standings.
Kristen (11-3) has engineered a dramatic turnaround for the Shires that has seen them go from a 5-9 season and a 12th-place finish to a 12-4 campaign and a No. 5 seeding this spring.
Their paths to success have been different.
While Cameron has received a lot of coaching from his father and other coaches in the area, he has never had to go away to find a pitching coach.
The Grahams have had to spend a lot of time driving to the Bangor area to get pitching instruction for Kristen, mostly on Sundays during the winter.
“My dad didn’t know much about [softball pitching] at first and that’s one of the reasons we went to get help. He has coached me during our summer league softball season and now he can tell me what I’m doing wrong,” said Kristen.
Shawn Graham said those Sunday trips to the Bangor area “have certainly benefited her game.”
Last winter, they didn’t have to drive nearly as far because her pitching instructor, Shelby Slauenwhite, would travel up from Bangor to Southern Aroostook High School in Dyer Brook to work with a number of pitchers from Aroostook County.
“It was extremely helpful,” said Kristen. “That’s why pitching has gone so well this year. I’ve improved so much. I’ve learned some new pitches.”
Kristen has added a changeup to her repertoire and is also throwing a drop from time to time.
“Whenever I struggle, I think about what Shelby told me. I know how to fix it,” said Kristen. “I’ve become a lot more comfortable on the mound. When I was a freshman and I walked someone, I’d put my head down and get frustrated. This year, I don’t worry about it. I just try to get the next hitter.”
“She has done very well this year,” noted brother Cameron.
Cameron will be doing the traveling this summer as he and two of his Houlton teammates, Nick Perfitt and Billy Phillips, will be playing American Legion baseball for the Motor City team in Bangor.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” he said.
Cameron said he has always enjoyed pitching “because you get to control things.
“You get to do what you want and you get to throw what you want,” said Cameron. “You’re more involved than if you were playing the field.”
Cameron has struggled with his curve on occasion this season but said it’s on track. He is also working on his changeup and a split-fingered fastball and he will drop down and throw his fastball and curve from a sidearm angle to throw off the hitters.
Both siblings play basketball and Shawn is the coach of the defending two-time schoolgirl basketball champs. Houlton won the Class C state title two years ago and the B crown this past winter.
But both said baseball and softball are their favorite sports.
They are both good hitters, too. Cameron plays the outfield when he isn’t pitching and Kristen plays first base.
“She is more of a power hitter and he is a slap hitter who can run,” said Shawn.
The Graham kids are competitive with each other but are also supportive of each other.
They don’t compare notes because their sports are different.
But Shawn will sit down with the two of them and talk about their performances and their pitch selection.
“He always give us tips. He’ll tell us about things we can do better,” said Cameron.