BANGOR — It’s been a busy summer for many of the players on the Bangor Senior League all-star baseball team.
Not only did 10 members of the 16-man roster compete for the Maine District 3 title that earns the winner status as the host team for the Senior League World Series, they also played a full American Legion schedule while helping the Bangor Comrades earn a state tournament berth.
Now, some three weeks since the end of the Senior League season and two weeks removed from American Legion play, those players hope their varied baseball experiences will reap benefits on the world stage.
“We’ve been playing baseball all summer long, and hopefully that’s going to help get us ready for this,” said Bangor first baseman Anthony Capuano, “because the teams we’ll be facing are probably going to be about the same level as the teams we’ve faced in Legion, so that should help us.”
Bangor, which will open SLWS play against Canada at noon Sunday, will represent District 3 for the seventh time in the nine years the tournament has been held at Mansfield Stadium.
Nine players are back from last year’s team that went 1-3 in pool play, edging Cornwall, Ontario, 1-0 in the 2009 opener. Four other players are up from the 2009 Bangor Junior League team that won the state championship and advanced to the U.S. East regional.
The veteran players hope to capitalize on last summer’s experience.
“You’re definitely playing on a big stage and you have to keep your emotions in control,” said second baseman Seth Freudenberger, a veteran of the 2009 SLWS. “Every pitcher out there from the other teams could be an ace on any team around here, so you’ve got to be mentally tough and have a plan when you go up there to hit against them.”
Several players on the roster also were key contributors to a Bangor High School team that went undefeated during the regular season in Eastern Maine Class A last spring and advanced to the regional semifinals.
“This is the most experienced team that we’ve had in terms of World Series experience as well as Legion experience,” said Bangor manager Ron St. Pierre. “Because the Legion team was younger this year a lot of these guys played Legion in addition to Senior League where in other years they wouldn’t be playing, and anytime they play ball it’s beneficial.”
Bangor’s strength may be in its offense with a lineup featuring Capuano, outfielder Josiah Hartley, catcher Dylan Morris, third baseman Adam King and shortstop Nic Cota.
“This is a better hitting team than last year,” said St. Pierre. “It’s mostly the same kids from last year, but they’re a year older, they’ve played another year of high school ball and they’ve played Legion ball. Some of the kids didn’t play Legion, but they were at every single Senior League game and started and played just about every single inning during the playoffs, and that was good competition, too.”
Bangor also returns three pitchers who each got a start in last year’s SLWS, righthanders Jesse Wood and Cody Savage and lefty Curtis Worcester. Tyler LaPlante, Greg Duff and Bryan Rouleau also figure into the pitching mix
“We’re definitely not as experienced as we’ve been in the past, but we have some talented pitchers,” said Morris. “Being a veteran catcher hopefully I can help by calling a good game for them.”
Capuano, Freudenberger, Cota and King will play in the Bangor infield, while Hartley, Savage, Christian Corneil, Luke Hetterman and Jacob Searles will see outfield duty and Wyatt Frost will both catch and play the outfield.
“Playing a lot of baseball over the summer, you get a lot of competition and see great pitchers,” said Freudenberger. “It really gets you ready for the World Series where you see the best in our age group from across the world. It’s very beneficial.”
Bangor has won five games in pool play during its previous six trips to the SLWS, including three victories over Canada, so history suggests Sunday’s opener offers a chance for the Maine District 3 champions to get off to an optimistic start.
The Bangor-Canada games traditionally have been low-scoring, a fact that might be attributed in part to the lengthy layoff Bangor typically has between the end of the Senior League season and the start of the Little League Baseball World Series for players ages 15 and 16.
“I think we’re a much better hitting team than last year,” said St. Pierre. “The layoff of three weeks is really concerning me, though, because if you haven’t seen good, live pitching in three weeks, it’s tough.”
Bangor would like nothing better than to use an early victory as the catalyst toward a pair of SLWS goals — winning more than one game in pool play for the first time, and perhaps even advancing through pool play to next Friday’s semifinals.
“It’s tough to advance, but it’s a dream we all have,” said St. Pierre.