Boston High School: Erskine

New England Roundup: Maine

May, 13, 2012
5/13/12
11:25
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It didn’t take Luke Fernandes long to get on the baseball radar screen, a result you could say of the radar gun.

MainePlaying in a Perfect Game tournament in New Jersey for pro and college scouts, Fernandes clocked 93 on the radar gun, a pretty big deal when you consider he had yet to begin his sophomore year at Marshwood High School. Later that summer, playing at the Lynn Invitational in Lynn, Mass., Fernandes and his fastball caught the eye of a Boston College coach who happened to be at the tournament.

Two days later he visited the campus and talked to head coach Mike Gambino. He had yet to play his sophomore year yet was offered a 3-for-4 scholarship and made a verbal commitment to play for the Eagles. Now a senior at Marshwood, Fernandes expects to report to Chestnut Hill this fall, unless he receives a call from a Major League team looking to take him fairly high in the draft. He’s already filled out surveys for 10 professional teams.

“That will be a decision he has to make,” said Eric Fernandes, Luke’s father and high school coach. “We really believe in Coach Gambino at BC.”

Fernandes, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound, right-hander, experienced arm trouble last year and didn’t pitch because of weakness in his shoulder.

He came back through rehabilitation but then developed some elbow soreness. His dad had him on a 70 pitch count when he faced defending Class A state champion Cheverus a couple of weeks ago, but after a shaky start he settled down and pitched into the seventh inning, finishing with 101 pitches.

Marshwood and Fernandes won the game 6-3 after he fell behind 3-0 early but settled down and pitched hitless ball through the middle innings.

“The first inning I just had the wrong approach,” he said. “I wasn’t spotting fastballs and I wasn’t changing speeds effectively.”

Eric Fernandes said Luke’s best pitch is his slider.

“It can be devastating on a right-hander as well as burying on a lefty’s hands,” Eric Fernandes said.

Fernandes throws a two-seam fastball to create movement on his pitches. He worked with former Red Sox reliever Bob Stanley in a Stratham, N.H. for a few years to develop his repertoire.

“Luke and he gravitated toward each other,” Eric said. “Bob really got him command of that two-seamer.”

Luke plays shortstop, or sometimes first base to save his arm, and is capable of playing college ball as a position player as well as a pitcher. Boston College has agreed to take a look at him in the field as well as on the mound.

“There’s something to be said for going out and playing every day,” said Luke, who admitted he’s a pitcher at heart.

“(It’s) the one-on-one stuff with the hitter and having better stuff than he does,” he said.

Fernandes has also developed a changeup which remains a work in progress.

“The only three well-hit balls off him have been on changeups,” Eric said. “He left it up.”

The Hawks are 7-2 and in first place in the Class A West standings. In addition to Fernandes, they also pitch Jake Verrill, who is headed to West Point next fall to play football and possibly baseball. Troy Pappas, who is headed to Bates College, also pitches while catcher Matthew Bernier made the Under Armor tea that is headed to Florida.

Fernandes hasn’t accepted any offers to visit schools since committing to Boston College. He likes the idea of “just knowing I had a place to go.”

A four-year player on the basketball team, baseball is his first love and his been since he was young kid.

“Baseball for me has been kind of where I can go and leave everything else (behind),” he said. “Winning games and competing.”

A, SORT OF, LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
With an enrollment of just 110 students it’s sometimes difficult for Van Buren High School to fill out spring baseball and softball rosters.

The baseball team played with the minimum nine players in 2005 and 2006 and reached the Eastern Maine Class D final in 2006. They Crusaders didn’t have enough to field a team in 2009. This spring, the seasons of the baseball and softball teams were again in jeopardy.

The softball team, it turned out, didn’t have enough players for a varsity team, while the baseball team had just 11 players.

Boys aren’t allowed to play softball under Maine Prinicpals’ Association rules, but girls can play baseball. And three softball team members — senior Naomi Maldonado, sophomore Kayla Durette and freshman Amanda Sytulek — decided to join the baseball team. Maldonado, in fact, doubled and singled in the team’s opening day 13-3 loss to Wisdom.

“I wanted to play, I was pretty disappointed when they said there wasn’t going to be a softball team,” Maldonado told the Bangor Daily News. “I thought it was a good opportunity. I didn’t have to think long about doing it at all.”

The girls were accepted withouth protest by the boys on the team who prefer a full roster to none at all.

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New England Roundup: Maine

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
2:18
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It’s only been a few days since snow left the ground in Jackman and there’s no guarantee it won’t return before the end of April.

MaineNestled in the Moose River Valley just 16 miles from the Canadian border in northwestern Maine, Jackman is a winter haven for snowmobilers. In the warmer months, it attracts hunters and fishermen or tourists passing through on their way to Quebec province. Tourism is one of the leading industries in this town of 700 while the Jackman Lumber Mill and the Border Patrol Station are the two largest employers.

Athletes at Forest Hills High School in town are spread pretty thin. With an enrollment of 54 students, teams are allowed to include eighth graders on high school teams out of necessity. Basketball is the biggest game in town and this year the Tigers achieved unprecedented success, winning the Western Maine Class D championship after rallying from a 19-point deficit in the second half against top-seeded Hyde School. And last fall, the golf team won the conference championship.

Baseball is another matter. There is no middle school team and as Coach Mike LeBlanc says the youth program is “not anything to write home about.”

“When I first started they used a pitching machine to pitch to batters,” LeBlanc said.

A pitcher himself, LeBlanc changed that in a hurry. He arrived in Jackman 15 years ago after applying for a teaching job.

“I looked at the map and said ‘what the heck am I thinking of,’ ” he said.

LeBlanc grew up in Skowhegan where he still lives and makes the 75-mile commute each weekday to the school. A star at Skowhegan, he moved on to the University of Maine where he became the team’s closer. He was a member of the last UMaine team to reach the College World Series in 1986.

Jackman baseball is about as far removed from that experience as LeBlanc could get. Yet he’s had success despite some obvious drawbacks. Many of his players have little or no experience when they show up for tryouts.

“They’re first taste of it is when they’re in the eighth grade,” LeBlanc said. “They have no clue whatsoever but they play hard. I’ve never questioned their toughness.”

This year LeBlanc has three eighth graders on his team. Numbers have varied from a high of 21 players to as few as 11.

“They just play to play it,” LeBlanc said. “They have fun. I’m not too strict.”

Still, in 13 years as coach — LeBlanc took a two-year hiatus three years ago — his teams have qualified for the playoffs 10 times. They rarely get outside before the season begins. This year was an exceptional as temperatures wandered into the 70’s in mid-March. But they’ve since dipped to the freezing mark and there was snow on the ground earlier this week.

The gym provides little respite since it’s undersized at 47x74 feet and can accommodate a batting cage but no portable mound. Often the first outdoor action the Tigers see is when they travel down river to face rival Valley which is about an hour away. Travel is another issue for the Tigers who routinely face long bus rides. When they play at Vinalhaven, it involves a three-and-and-half hour bus ride a 45-minute ferry ride to the island. Because of all the travel, the Tigers play seven doubleheaders in their 16-game schedule.

They’ve had a few pitchers over the years, though. Jeff Mulhall, who plays for Thomas College in Waterville, struck out 294 batters in four years. This season, junior Evan Worster is the team’s ace. The star of the basketball tournament, Worster throws fairly hard but has plenty of finesse, according to LeBlanc.

“He has a pitcher’s mentality,” LeBlanc said. “He throws the ball inside. A lot of pitcher’s are afraid to do that.”

Junior Derek Ouellette and freshman Matt Turner have also shown promise on the mound which may make the Tigers a contender in Western Maine Class D. They open their season April 24 with a doubleheader at Valley.

“It’s pretty amazing what those athletes do up there,” LeBlanc said.

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New England Roundup: Maine

May, 6, 2011
5/06/11
1:36
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After flirting with playing baseball and football at a couple of Division I colleges, Cony High School’s Luke Duncklee has decided to play both sports at Division III Colby College in Waterville.

MaineDuncklee was recruited by the University of Maine and guaranteed a roster spot on its baseball team but held off on making a decision. He later applied to the United States Military Academy at West Point where he drew the interest of football coaches after supplying a highlight tape. But he failed to pass a physical after a faint heart murmur was discovered.

“I weighed all my options,” Duncklee said. “I had to decide what was best for me, not only athletically but academically.”

One of his options was Colby, which expressed a desire for Duncklee to attend as long as two years ago.

Duncklee has starred in both sports at Cony in Augusta throughout his high school career. He also played hockey for three years at the Capital City school. As a sophomore he helped the Rams to the Class A baseball state championship where hit a home run in Cony’s 2-1 loss to Deering. A center fielder, he was later selected to the Maine Sunday Telegram all-state first team.

“I definitely recruited Luke for a couple of years,” Colby baseball coach Dale Plummer said. “I’ve seen him play a lot of games in the last few years. Obviously, he’s one of the best players we can get here.”

Duncklee became more interested in football after he was shifted to quarterback his junior year. Prior to that he played receiver and defensive back. Once he moved the quarterback, the Rams employed his ability to both throw and run. Over his final two seasons, Duncklee accounted for 50 touchdowns running and passing and nearly 5,000 yards.

His senior year, he passed for 1,440 yards and rushed for 1,147, combining for 26 touchdowns.

“Basically if I wasn’t passing I was running and if I wasn’t running I was passing,” the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Duncklee said. “We had a pretty wide open playbook.”

With Colby’s Nick Kmetz returning for his senior year at quarterback next fall, Duncklee will likely be a backup. He will probably gets some looks as a slot receiver or defensive back.

“I actually like it a lot,” Duncklee said of defense. “I started by sophomore year and I loved it, but it was kind of tough playing both ways.”

Duncklee played some defense last season. In fact, in a playoff game against Mt. Blue, he played offense and defense the entire game, punted and returned kicks.

He thought about playing either football or baseball at West Point. He visited the campus and watched a football game and later sent a highlight tape to the coaching staff.

“I met with the coaches when I visited there,” he said. “I was going to play. I would have been on the team.”

Duncklee may reapply to West Point and ask for a waiver. He’s known about his heart murmur for five years and said it’s never affected him.

For now, though, he’s committed to Colby and playing two sports. It’s not unprecedented. Three members of this year’s baseball team also played football.

“These guys just have a routine,” Plummer said. “You go to class, you go to practice, you study. It’s takes discipline.”

Despite its central Maine location, very few kids from the state go to Colby where admission standards are very high or play on its athletic teams.

“We’re excited about it,” Plummer said of Duncklee’s arrival. “I think Maine kids are gritty kids.”

MPA returns to two thirds rule
More high school teams will make the postseason next fall after membership of the Maine Principals’ Association voted to allow two thirds of the teams governed by sports under the Heal point scoring system to qualify for tournaments. For the past two years, 50 percent of teams qualified for postseason play.

MPA members voted for two thirds measure by about a 2-1 margin at the organization’s annual spring conference. A survey recently conducted by the MPA of member schools revealed that about two thirds of those schools favored returning to two thirds standard, The MPA also voted to retain a rule that limits non-countable or exhibition dates to five for a season along with one non-countable date between the end of the regular season and the beginning of the postseason.

Top pitching performances
  • Lincoln Academy’s Brandon Reilly struck out 21 batters to lead the unbeaten Eagles to a 4-3 win against Oak Hill in nine innings. Reilly allowed two hits and walked four.
  • Max Andrews of John Bapst fanned 11 and walked two as the Crusaders downed Old Town 13-1 in a game called after five innings because of the 10-run mercy rule. Andrews also hit a pair of home runs and drove in five.
  • South Portland’s Andrew Richards fanned seven and didn’t walk a batters as the Red Riots downed Portland 7-0. Richards allowed just two hits and at one point retired 23 consecutive batters.
  • Waterville senior Tim Locke pitched a perfect game in a 19-0 win over Mt. View called after five innings due to the mercy rule. Locke struck out 10 for the defending Class B state champions.
Sibling batteries
Two of the top pitching and catching combinatons in the state are comprised of brothers. At Westbrook, senior left-hander Scott Heath and freshman Kyle Heath form a strong battery. Scott, who helped Westbrook to the Little League World Series six years ago, will pitch at the University of Maine next season.

At Lewiston, senior catcher McKae Hyde and his sophomore brother and catcher Corbin are another potent combination. McKae will play at Bates College next season. The teams could meet in the Class A state championship game. Westbrook is 4-0 in Western Maine while Lewiston in 5-1 in the East.

Hermon High gets donation
A $100,000 donation by UFC president Dana White to his alma mater will mean significant upgrades to the athletic complex at Hermon High School.

A multiports scoreboard/message center has already been purchased and will be located in one corner of Pottle Field. Additional seating for the football field is also been purchased and will increase the seating capacity from 550 to 800. Hermon is scheduled to field a varsity football team this fall for the first time.

White, 41, graduated form Hermon in 1987. He lives in Las Vegas where he serves as president and CEO of Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Baseball Top 10
  1. Westbrook
  2. Bangor
  3. Deering
  4. South Portland
  5. Biddeford
  6. Lewiston
  7. Waterville
  8. Cape Elizabeth
  9. Lincoln
  10. Erskine
Softball Top 10
  1. South Portland
  2. Scarborough
  3. Brewer
  4. Cony
  5. Biddeford
  6. Fryeburg
  7. Messalonskee
  8. Thornton
  9. Oak Hill
  10. Hermon

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