Bangor High School baseball coach Dave Morris is pretty comfortable with what he expects to see when he sends senior left-hander Brad McLaughlin to the mound.
“I hate to sound like a broken record, but if I had to say one word about Brad it would be that he’s consistent and he’s been that way ever since his sophomore year,” Morris said after McLaughlin’s latest outing, Wednesday’s four-hit shutout that lifted the Rams past Hampden Academy 7-0.
During an age when 100 mph fastballs have transformed Major League Baseball into a strikeout-walk-home run exhibition, McLaughlin relies on more of an old-school approach to pitching. He features location, changing speeds and a willingness to rely on his teammates.
That approach has been as statistically dominant — and consistent — as any flame thrower might hope for so far this spring.
Through 13 2/3 innings in two starts, McLaughlin has yielded only one run on nine hits while striking out nine and walking one en route to earning both of 2-2 Bangor’s victories.
During the win over Hampden at Bangor’s Mansfield Stadium, he allowed just one runner to advance as far as second base and reached only two three-ball counts against the 25 batters he faced.
McLaughlin averaged a mere 2.84 pitches per batter while throwing 71 pitches, 52 for strikes.
That effort followed a season-opening 3-1 victory over Brewer with a similar storyline. McLaughlin faced only three three-ball counts and averaged 3.18 pitches per at-bat during his 89-pitch outing. He threw 62 strikes before getting final-out relief help from junior left-hander Colton Trisch.
Only two Brewer baserunners advanced past second base in that contest.
“Brad’s not going to overpower everyone, but one thing he does really well is throw the fastball until the other team beats you and hits the ball,” Morris said. “[Hampden] put some balls on the barrel, but he changed speeds later in the game and got some guys off balance. Then when they did get a hit, he really got tougher.”
Mixing the fastball, curve and changeup was part of McLaughlin’s game plan against a Hampden team that entered the contest riding a two-game winning streak.
“Brad was working the changeup away from the zone and it was working very well,” junior catcher Ryan Howard said. “We were working on it all week.”
Morris also cites an even more subtle asset McLaughlin uses to aid his success on the mound.
“One of the greatest things I think he does is hide the ball real well for a lefty,” he said. “A lot of teams can’t get their timing on him because they can’t see it.”
McLaughlin said he takes comfort in the support of his teammates, which on Wednesday included errorless defense and a three-run, first-inning double by junior outfielder and fellow captain Max Clark that gave Bangor the lead for good.
“I knew Brad was going to throw a heck of a game so we wanted to get off to a good start and it felt good to be able to get that done,” Clark said. “He just battles on the mound. He’s always so composed and he throws for groundouts and flyouts. He just lets the defense do the work behind him.”
McLaughlin called the Hampden game an important victory as Bangor rebounded from back-to-back losses to Messalonskee of Oakland and Oxford Hills of South Paris.
“Honestly it’s been kind of rough, but this was a big turnaround,” he said. “Hopefully we can keep this energy here for the rest of the season.”
Bangor is scheduled to return to action at 1 p.m. Saturday at Skowhegan before its next home game May 4 against Old Town.