Reloading the Rotation: Houlton Aims for Repeat Trip to Class C Final

HOULTON, Me. (WAGM) - The Houlton Shiretowners graduated their entire starting pitching rotation from last year's Class C state championship runner-up. They're looking for some young up and comings to step in and own the mound in 2019.

"The arms have looked pretty good so far," Head Coach Jim Castner said. "A difficulty we've had is getting the guys stretched out in the gym because we don't know until the day before if we're playing a game or not so we can't really stretch guys out if we don't know if we're playing a game later that week, so that's been a difficulty, but they've been throwing well when they've been throwing."

It's all about bringing the new arms up to speed for the start of the season. One of the guys, Coach Castner is looking to lead the rotation is junior Jason Collett.

"I was a bullpen pitcher last year so I'm gonna have to have a lot of key innings this year," Collett said. "Tyler Bailey will be stepping up in the second roll and Keegan Gentle and even a freshman or two in the bullpen. Collin Moody probably."

The Shire haven't spent the entire winter in the gym, they went down to Bucksport a couple weeks ago and played a series of scrimmages.

"For the first time being outside we played pretty smoothly defensively," Castner said. "I was proud of the guys the way they aggressively ran the bases and also how they communicated well so I was happy to see that."

And for Collett, it was good to pitch from an actual mound.

"We've thrown a lot of bullpens, I haven't had a lot of experience with guys hitting off of us," Collett said. "Those Bucksport games were real key and a lot of help."

For a team looking to get back to the state championship, they got a quick taste of talented teams in Bucksport.

"It was just nice to get out and play a few games against some teams we usually don't play but Bucksports a good team we'll probably see them in the playoffs," Senior Ryder Graham said. "We play Calais in the regular season, they're a good match-up for the preseason, Stearns was just a good test because they're a top class D team."

The regular season has arrived for the Shires, tomorrow they are scheduled to play in Caribou against the Vikings. Collett is making his first start. Some would be nervous, but he seems to know exactly what he's expected to do.

"Throw strikes and get them out, I guess," Collett said laughing.