No matter who pitches for the Ellsworth baseball team this spring, it will be their first time stepping on the mound at the varsity level.
But the Eagles aren’t worried about filling roles or underclassmen playing their first innings, according to coach Dan Curtis.
“When you get to a certain point it’s not a rebuild, it’s just a reload,” Curtis said. “I think there’s a lot of young guys anxious to have their chance.”
The pitching rotation was depleted by graduation, and is a major component of the Eagles’ restructuring as the team looks to fill seven spots on the roster a year after celebrating a Class B state title thanks to a 3-2 victory over Freeport.
Last season, seniors David Baugh, Craig Burnett and Hunter Curtis pitched virtually every inning. This year Dan Curtis is looking for seniors and underclassmen to fill in on the mound.
Peter Keblinsky, a senior shortstop, will throw some innings at pitcher. Keblinsky said he’s played shortstop his whole life and that even with his height, it’s his natural position.
“He’s been a difference maker because he allows us to do different things with the guys in front of him,” Curtis said. “He’s a very smooth shortstop for being as tall as he is, and he’s a very good hitter.”
Keblinsky hasn’t pitched since Little League, but isn’t short on confidence.
“I am really excited to step up on the mound this year. I feel very confident,” Keblinsky said. “I would consider myself a pretty good pitcher and the young guys good pitchers. We are all really excited.”
ellsworth’s 2022 Class b state title victory
Miles Palmer will play a variety of positions for the Eagles, including pitcher.
“He might play every position by the end of the season,” Curtis said. “I think he will do extremely well on the mound.”
Palmer prides himself on being able to play anywhere on the field.
“I am happy to know that [my coach] is willing to put me anywhere,” Palmer said. “If one day we need a catcher I can hop behind the plate, if you need a pitcher I’ll pitch, if you need me to sit the bench I can sit the bench.”
Palmer also hasn’t pitched in years, but the Ellsworth coaching staff has kept him and Keblinsky ready to go in practice for this moment. The coaching staff has a specific pitching program that they put all their players through so that they’re ready to go when they’re at the varsity level.
“I’ve still been practicing pitching because they knew in the future we’d lose guys,” Palmer said. “Once we get to this point we haven’t been reintroduced, we’ve been working at it for this moment. My confidence is pretty good to be able to pitch some strikes and get some outs.”
Keblinsky expects a big year out of Palmer.
“He got overlooked in the all-conference rankings last year, but he will be one of our best hitters and one of our best defenders,” Keblinksky said. “He’s a very versatile player, plays outfield, infield and will pitch, too.”
Keblinsky said that the team’s main goal is to win another title and that they have to set their goals high. Old Town will be a team to watch in Class B North, according to Curtis, as will John Bapst.
“We’re all super excited,” Keblinsky said. “We’re going to be a lot better than most people think.”
Curtis said he’s got exciting freshmen and sophomores that should be able to contribute this season. Billy Garland and Brady Kenny are two returning players that show promise, while Brayden King has a lot of pitching potential.
“Brayden King has a tremendous arm, and we are trying to fine-tune him and really turn him into a pitcher,” Curtis said. “He’s got a lot of talent. We have a whole slew of other sophomores that can really hit and throw. We have a bunch of exciting freshmen coming in that can throw really well. All the tools are there, it’s just the belief of jumping into the program and getting ready to go.”