When dissecting the Eastern Maine Class A softball ranks, there appear to be several teams which could challenge for the regional title.
Defending regional and state champion Brewer, Eastern Maine runner-up Bangor and perennial power Skowhegan, which won this always challenging class in 2007, could be the teams to beat.
“They’re going to be very tough this year,” said Bangor coach Don Stanhope of Skowhegan, which has one of the region’s top pitchers in Becca McCarty along with senior catcher Sam Gray, who will attend the University of Massachusetts next fall.
Stanhope’s Bangor team, which will field 11 returnees from a club that reached the regional championship game for the first time in program history in 2008, is certainly going to be strong again.
Along with junior ace Sam Bedore, the Rams bring back a healthy unit of juniors and sophomores, including sophomores Sadie Redman and Kim Jordan, junior Stephanie Comstock and seniors Nicole Stairs and Erin Dean.
Bangor will also welcome newcomer Kendra Lenz, who has had a great indoor track and field career at the school.
Stanhope said her hitting skills are coming along nicely.
“This past week it took me all of a minute to explain slap hitting [to her],” he said.
“I think she’s a wonderful addition with speed. With her it certainly makes us faster,” Stanhope added.
The Rams kicked off their exhibition schedule by participating in a round robin at the University of Maine’s Mahaney Dome, and Stanhope was impressed with the way things went.
“This past weekend Kim Jordan was hitting the cover off the ball at the dome. She hit a couple off the back wall. We were very pleased with that,” he said.
Bangor will be tested right off the bat, as it travels to Skowhegan to meet the Indians in an April 22 season opener.
Defending state champion Brewer, which has another one of the state’s top hurlers in Melanie Judkins, should also contend in Class A.
The team enters the season on a 14-game winning streak — with Bangor dealing the Witches their only loss last spring — and they are tough as long as Judkins is on top of her game.
“They’ve got kids who know how to play softball. [Coach] Skip [Estes] does a great job getting them ready,” Stanhope said.
Brewer’s key returnees include Judkins, catcher Leah Jackson, third baseman Allison DeFilipp, outfielder Emily Fraser and Maria Liberatore.
Other contenders include Oxford Hills of South Paris and Cony of Augusta.
Devils eager to defend
Expectations will be just a tad higher this spring when the Calais softball team takes the field.
After all, the Blue Devils rode a young, talented nucleus all the way to the Class C state championship game, where coach Greg Smith’s club found undefeated and defending state champion Georges Valley of Thomaston waiting.
Yes, the Buccaneers did sail home with the title, but the Blue Devils’ Tessa Clark surrendered only two runs — both unearned — on six hits in that 2-0 loss.
Clark and the rest of that Eastern Maine championship cast returns intact for another show this season, and Calais is being pegged by many as an early-season favorite in Class C.
The Devils have a deep, potent lineup returning, led by No. 3 hitter Clark on the mound, leadoff batter Courtney Hill at second base, cleanup hitter Honor Wilkinson behind the plate, Alex McVicar at shortstop and Toni Cole at third base.
Other key players include outfielders Jen Ross, Macey Gillespie and Shannon Brown and third baseman Toni Cole.
Last season was a breakthrough for the Devils, as they had earned the No. 1 seed in the regional playoffs for three straight years, only to have their season ended by Sumner of East Sullivan on all three occasions, including twice in the semifinals.
Calais, seeded second last season, defeated the top-ranked Tigers 6-5 in the regional championship game to annex its first such championship since 1995.
Another Bronco boost
While the Hampden Academy boys basketball team will benefit from Camden Hills of Rockport transfer Graham Safford next season, the Hampden girls basketball team will get a boost, also.
Katelyn DeRaps, a sophomore at Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln, will be attending HA next fall as her family is planning on moving from Lincoln to Hampden over the summer.
DeRaps’ father John, who served as an assistant under head coach Brian McDormand the last three winters, will resign from that post.
DeRaps’ wife, Marianne, works in Hampden.
Katelyn DeRaps, a shooting guard, was one of the top scorers in the Big East for Mattanawcook last winter, helping lead the Lynx into the Eastern Maine Class B quarterfinals where they fell to eventual state champion Waterville.
DeRaps will join a young Hampden team that finished 5-13 in the Eastern Class A ranks this past season. She’ll team up with one of the KVAC North’s top young shooters in Michaela Stephenson.
The Broncos graduated three seniors from last year’s squad.