As much as Dave Morris missed coaching in games last year, he may have missed guiding the Bangor High School baseball team through practices even more.
“I think a lot of kids played some baseball last summer, but the biggest difference is knowing how to practice,” Morris said. “When you play a lot of games, I think you miss out on the internal competition within a team. I also think you miss out on a lot of the fundamentals, like monitoring pitching mechanics and hitting.
“That’s where we see the biggest difference, missing that practice time when you’re able pay attention to the smaller things in the game that hopefully equate to good play.”
Morris is back in his element this spring, leading Bangor through the preseason — save for six days off due to a COVID case at Bangor High School — and its first countable game Tuesday, a 3-1 victory over Brewer.
That matchup was scoreless through 4 1/2 innings before Bangor finally grabbed the lead and held on to defeat its cross-river rival.
“There were a lot of little pieces in that game where we grew, and I think once this team gets a sniff of success, I’m looking forward to what type of team we’re going to become,” he said.
Bangor’s baseball program is in a new phase of development after dominating the state’s Class A ranks with five consecutive state championships from 2014 through 2018.
The Rams endured a frustrating 4-12 campaign in 2019, then were shut down like the rest of the state’s interscholastic baseball world last spring due to the coronavirus.
“In the past we’ve had footprints, so to speak, where from 2014 to 2018 a lot of kids came up during that stretch and had good landmarks to follow,” Morris said. “This group is trying to make its own impression.”
James Neel, a senior second baseman, is the only player back from the 2018 championship team. He and junior shortstop Keegan Cyr comprise the Rams’ double-play combination and are two of the four captains.
Senior pitcher-outfielder Bradley McLaughlin, who earned the win against Brewer by allowing one run on five hits in 6 1/3 innings, and junior outfielder Max Clark are the other captains.
Pitchers for the Rams also include hard-throwing junior left-hander Colton Trisch, who came on with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the seventh inning against Brewer and earned the save with a game-ending strikeout.
“That was a big moment for him, just in terms of his own confidence and the confidence of the team to win the game,” said Morris of Trisch, who already has verbally committed to play at Division I George Washington University after he graduates from Bangor in 2022.
Trisch also plays in the outfield and bats leadoff.
Senior right-hander Garrett Courtney is another key member of the staff, along with junior right-handers Clark, Luke Missbrenner and Connor Prouty and sophomore righty Matt Holmes.
Missbrenner also plays first base while Holmes bats third in the order as the designated hitter.
The Bangor lineup includes junior third baseman Braydon Caron, who had a key two-run double against Brewer from the No. 9 spot in the batting order, junior catcher Ryan Howard, and junior center fielder A.J. Lazano, a transfer from Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor.
“I like this group because they have some talent,” said Morris, whose team is scheduled to return to action Thursday at Messalonskee of Oakland. “We’ve just got to get honed in on some fundamentals, but overall it’s a group that I think is going to form into something special.
“They’ve got a willingness to them. Everybody is eager to get better, and they have high expectations of themselves collectively.”