Last spring they defied their relative youth and varsity inexperience, perhaps surprising the rest of the Eastern Maine Class C baseball field by winning a regional title for the first time since 1992.
This spring the Calais Blue Devils are still young chronologically, the roster now dominated by juniors and sophomores. But coach Kenny Murphy’s club remains focused on having similar success beginning when they open their season next Friday at Down East rival Washington Academy of East Machias.
“The goal is to win, we’re into it,” said Murphy, whose team finished 15-4 in 2010 after scoring three one-run victories in the Eastern Maine playoffs before falling to Dirigo of Dixfield 4-2 in the state championship game.
“The kids have been working their butts off for the last three weeks, pitchers and catchers the first week and with the whole team the last two weeks. They’re excited to get going, and they’re a good bunch of kids.”
Twelve of the 15 players on last year’s squad are back, with only pitcher-shortstop Josh Gillespie (6-3 last spring), catcher Jeremy Carr and outfielder Dylan Ramsdell — who had three hits in the state final — graduated.
Junior Adam Geel, who went 7-1 last spring and was the winning pitcher in the Blue Devils’ 4-3 victory over Penobscot Valley of Howland in the EM final, teamed with Gillespie to give Calais a pivotal 1-2 punch on the mound a year ago. Developing similar pitching depth to team with Geel this spring is one of the key issues Murphy hopes to resolve before the start of the regular season.
Candidates to bolster the Calais pitching staff include returning starter Jeremy Beers and two players who weren’t with the Blue Devils last year, junior Joe Mitchell and Lewis Francis, a transfer from Washington Academy.
“Pitching’s the key,” Murphy said. “They’ll all have to step up.”
Mitchell also is expected to bolster a Calais lineup that relied primarily on speed a year ago when the top four batters in the lineup each topped 20 stolen bases. Geel and Beers were among that group and are expected to be catalysts at the top of the lineup again this spring.
Dylan Carter, Jesse Clark, Logan Johnson, Nathan Pike and Alex Barnett are among other returning players, with Carter, Geel, Beers, Logan Johnson and Ryan Johnson all part of a Calais-area Senior League program that last summer advanced to the U.S. East regional tournament for the second straight year.
“The Junior League and Senior League teams have really made a big difference,” Murphy said.
Twenty-three players are playing baseball at Calais this spring, up from 16 a year ago and enough so the Blue Devils are attempting to piece together a junior varsity schedule.
Murphy also plans to take advantage of that depth at the varsity level.
“We’ll probably go with 12 guys or so most games,” he said. “There’s really not much of a difference between those players.”
Oceanside coaching staff shaping up
The fall and winter sports coaching staffs at Oceanside High School, the consolidation of Rockland and Georges Valley of Thomaston high schools that becomes official this summer, has been formalized.
Several appointments were approved Thursday by the RSU 13 board of directors, with those coaches who are not RSU 13 employees joining other returning coaches who work in either the Rockland or Georges Valley school systems and did not require formal board action, according to Rockland-Oceanside athletic administrator Jim Leonard.
Varsity coaches for the Mariners next fall will be Woody Moore, football; Joanna Hall, field hockey; Josh Mahar, boys soccer; Daryl Townsend, girls soccer; Jesse Bartke, cross country; and Keenan Flanagan, golf.
Winter coaches at the varsity level for Oceanside will be Matt Breen, boys basketball; Teel Foster, girls basketball; Bartke, indoor track; and Keely Baum, cheering.
Current coaches from Rockland and Georges Valley were invited to apply, and in cases where there was more than one applicant for a position interviews were held — a situation that arose just once involving fall and winter varsity sports positions, Leonard said.
The spring sports coaching staff for Oceanside will be formalized at a later date, Leonard said.
Rockland drops boys tennis for ‘11
Rockland District High School will not have a boys tennis team this spring, the result of an insufficient turnout of players.
“We couldn’t wrangle together seven kids to play,” said athletic administrator Jim Leonard.
Two seniors and three freshman expressed interest in playing for Tigers this spring. Instead, the three freshmen are playing exhibition matches this season in conjunction with the varsity squad at neighboring Georges Valley of Thomaston, the school Rockland will consolidate with this summer to form Oceanside High School.
Leonard said Oceanside High School will sponsor boys tennis again next year with the expectation that there will be enough players for a varsity team as well as some junior varsity competiton.
Rockland has a thriving girls tennis program with 24 players on the roster this spring, Leonard said.