HAMPDEN — A fairly young Hampden Academy baseball team hopes its emerging pitching depth will fuel its pursuit of an Eastern Maine Class A tournament berth this spring.
“The big thing I’m looking forward to is the development of the pitching staff,” said Broncos coach McLean Poulin, whose team is scheduled to host Brewer in its season opener at 1 p.m. Thursday after the game was postponed Wednesday due to inclement weather.
“We’re a little young there, but as long as the kids throw strikes, we should be in the thick of it.”
That pitching staff will be anchored by righthander Connor Perry, now in his third year as part of the Hampden rotation.
“He’s gained a lot of experience from being there all of last year and from the innings he got as a sophomore,” said Poulin of Perry, one of five seniors on the roster. “He will be a huge help to our younger guys.”
Junior Fred Knight is another experienced pitcher, though the big righthander likely will be used in a relief role. Classmate Dillon Corliss and sophomores Brian Fickett and Matt Palmer also figure prominently in the Broncos’ pitching plans.
That staff has been aided during preseason through the mentoring of former Hampden and Saint Joseph’s College pitching standout Pat Moran. Moran, who played last summer for the Pittsfield Colonials of the Can-Am League, has been with the Broncos for every practice this spring as he mulls a possible return to the Can-Am League in May.
“Pat’s been here every day, and he’s really been a tremendous help to the pitching staff,” said Poulin.
Hampden’s offense will feature senior Cody Miller, who will play both catcher and third base.
“He’ll be a leader for us, especially with the bat,” said Poulin. “He’s just a great hitter.”
Another key player for the Broncos will be sophomore Cooper Antone, who earned second-team All-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A North recognition last spring while splitting his time between the outfield and second base. This spring he’ll be Hampden’s starting shortstop, replacing graduated four-year starter Nolan Turner.
“Overall, his work ethic is great, and with the experience he got at second base last year it showed that he has the quick feet and soft hands to move over there,” said Poulin of Antone, who also may see some time at catcher.
Knight will be another offensive staple for Hampden while playing first base, while outfielder Jon Haws and Palmer in the infield also should be key contributors.
“Honestly, we want to be fighting for a playoff spot, being in that five-to-eight [seed] range,” said Poulin. “A lot of things would have to go really well for us to be in the top four, but as long as the pitchers throw strikes and the defense holds up, we should be in the fight for one of those playoff spots.”