BANGOR, Maine — Writing out the lineup card has been one of the more predictable pregame tasks for Bangor baseball coach Jeff Fahey in recent years.
But with the likes of Ian Edwards, Kyle Vanidestine and Shane Walton now graduated, just who will be where when the Rams open the 2009 season at Skowhegan next Wednesday afternoon is one of the more mysterious parts of Fahey’s job.
“It is different not writing in some of those seniors who were starters for three years,” said Fahey before Tuesday afternoon’s preseason game against Oxford Hills of South Paris at Mansfield Stadium.
“But we have a bunch of good kids filling in. I think it’s going to be a little different Bangor team from what we’ve had in the past. I don’t think we’re going to put up a lot of crooked numbers, but we have pitching depth that we haven’t necessarily had the last eight or nine years. If the pitchers throw strikes and we play defense, we’ll be OK.”
Bangor may not open the season with the explosive offense that has marked recent editions, but the Rams are not without considerable returning talent.
Senior outfielder Ryan Larochelle was a first-team Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference north division all-star last spring, while senior pitcher Jordan Clarke and senior infielder Chad Kelley earned second-team all-conference honors after helping Bangor to a 12-5 record.
That group will be counted on to take over some of the leadership duties this spring, but those responsibilities likely will be a shared experience.
“One of the biggest strengths I’ve noticed already this year is leadership,” said Kelley. “Right now we don’t have any captains, but the coaches have stressed that everyone’s going to be a leader on this team.”
While Bangor has relied largely on one or two pitchers to work the bulk of the innings in recent years, Fahey believes he has one of the deeper staffs of his coaching tenure this spring.
Clarke, who is 11-2 in two varsity seasons, will be the No. 1 starter, joined by junior Kyle Savage along with seniors Zane Gray, Dan Taft and Darren Casey-Covell among the pitching leaders for the Rams.
“One thing we have a lot of this year is pitching,” said Clarke, 3-2 last spring despite dealing with some arm woes. “We have a lot of people who can come in and throw strikes, which is good. We’re going to rely on them to minimize the runs, and hopefully the bats will come through.”
Larochelle and Savage will be focal points of a Bangor offense that may look to manufacture runs more than in years’ past due to considerable speed throughout the lineup.
“We’re going to look to scrap more this year, we’ve done it already at the start of the preseason to score runs,” said Larochelle. “We’re not going to be coming up and hitting home runs and getting three runs every first inning. It’s definitely a different team from what we’ve had in the past, but we’ve got a lot better chemistry and we’re getting better every day.”
Bangor also will sprinkle some younger players into the lineup, among them sophomores Jacques Larochelle, Jack Stacey and Dillon Morris.
The combination of youth and experience leaves Bangor hopeful of considerable improvement throughout the regular season.
“Barring injuries, especially with our pitching staff, halfway through the season we may have our growing pains, but I’m hoping we play better the second half, score more runs and really peak around playoff time,” said Fahey.
This may mark the first time in several years that Bangor is not considered the preseason favorite in Eastern Maine Class A.
Defending champion Brewer and Cony of Augusta are getting much of the early attention, and that’s just fine with the Rams.
“It’s actually kind of exciting going into a season knowing that you’re not considered the top dog in the East, but we also know that at the same time we’re coming along really well,” said Larochelle. “We might fly under the radar, but we’re going to do well as the season gets going.”