Lewiston, St. Dom’s among top baseball contenders

Posted April 20, 2011, at 3:25 p.m.

Class A

Bangor went undefeated during the 2010 regular season but lost to Brewer in the Eastern A semifinals. Many of the Rams took out their frustration in the Senior League later in the summer, reaching the world championship game. Much of the core from last year is back, including Joe Stanevicz, the ace of the pitching staff. Penobscot Valley area rivals Brewer and Hampden Academy figure to be their biggest challengers out of the KVAC North, along with Lawrence. Mt. Blue hopes a deep and talented pitching staff led by Bradley Jackson, Dylan Vining, Blake Hart, Jimmy Neal and Nick Hilton can vault it into playoff contention.

Lewiston’s nucleus also had a memorable summer, winning the state American Legion tournament for Gayton Post. Coach Todd Cifelli hopes learning to play in those pressure situations will carry over because the Blue Devils have not gone into a season with such high expectations in a long time. Brothers Mekae and Corbin Hyde join Jeff Keene in the heart of an athletic, diverse and, in spots, powerful lineup. Corbin Hyde, Keene and Joe Sullivan anchor a veteran pitching staff. Cony figures to be the Devils’ biggest obstacle to KVAC South supremacy. The Rams return a potent lineup but have an untested pitching roster. Edward Little will rely on pitching and defense to stake its claim for the post-season. Versatile junior Luc Farrago and catcher James Jackson lead the offense and figure to see time on the mound, along with Sean Ford, Cam Ivers and Cory Moholland. Defending state champion Oxford Hills is in rebuilding mode, returning just one starter, sophomore Jordan Croteau. Chris Priest, Dylan Cox and Brandon Campbell also have some varsity experience, but coach Shane Slicer expects some growing pains from a lineup consisting of four freshmen and four sophomores.

Class B

While Class B has been home to some perennial contenders over the last decade, such as Cape Elizabeth, Greely, Oak Hill and Gardiner, it has not nurtured anything close to a dynasty to compare with the Deerings and St. Dom’s in other classes. With that in mind, Waterville is trying to become the first Class B champion to repeat since Cape Elizabeth in 1991. The Purple Panthers have five starters back from the first title team in school history, including Kyle BIshop and Tim Locke, who both went 8-0 as juniors. Gardiner, Camden Hills, Hermon and Winslow figure to push the Panthers in the east. As usual, it starts on the mound for Oak Hill, where junior Josh Martin is the top returning starter. Seniors Craig Morrill and Cody Provost bring pop to the lineup. Leavitt is eyeing its first non-open tournament playoff berth in 13 years and could get there if someone can emerge as an ace. Christian McBriearty, last year’s No. 2 starter, has the inside track and has Matt Bilodeau and Josh Bunker pushing hard. Kevin Theiss, Devin Long and Max Cloutier lead a veteran infield.

The Western Maine Conference has produced the last four Western Class B champions, with Greely and Cape Elizabeth alternating the title. Yarmouth is favored to make it a five-by-three, if you will, but defending champion Cape and Falmouth won’t make it easy. Gray-New Gloucester could surprise, especially it pulls out a couple of wins in a tough early schedule that includes Yarmouth, Falmouth, Greely and Cape in its first six games. Poland lost just two seniors but they were the Knights’ top two pitchers. Pitching will be the Knights’ biggest question mark, but coach Mike Connor pitching staff has the quantity and flexibility to find the right combinations. The top of the order is stout with seniors Connor King and Devin Goyette, and a talented freshman class makes Connor optimistic about the future.

The Mountain Valley Conference can usually count on Mountain Valley and Lisbon representing it in the Class B post-season. But both teams lost a half-dozen starters from their ranks so getting there this season is not guaranteed. Mountain Valley does have a couple of all-conference seniors back — catcher/pitcher Izaak Mills and shortstop Cam Kaubris. Twelve of the 18 on the varsity roster, including much of the pitching staff, are sophomores, so how quickly they mature will be key to the Falcons’ chances. Lisbon isn’t as young but will also be counting on an untested pitching staff led by Tobey Harrington, Luke Caron, and Ryan Riordan.

Class C

Depth and balance have St. Dom’s back at the top of the preseason prognostications. The Saints lost just three seniors off the team that reached their eighth consecutive regional final, and they have five sophomores who saw some starting time last year, as well as some talented freshmen, to fill those gaps. Seniors Alex Parker and Kurt Johnson and junior Joe Bryant anchor a lineup that has few, if any, holes, and also lead a pitching staff that coach Bob Blackman believes is seven deep. Wiscasset and Winthrop lead the rest of the contenders in the MVC South. The Ramblers figure to bounce back from a 3-11 2010 campaign with the return of Ryan Conant, Eric Duplissis and Travis Luce, who missed last year due to violations of the school’s conduct code. Monmouth also figures to improve off its two-win season with an experienced nucleus bolstered by a freshman class that won the state Babe Ruth tournament last summer.

The MVC North continues to be the deeper of the two divisions. Telstar lost just one senior off one of last year’s surprise contenders. Seniors Ben Field and T.J. O’Connor and juniors Dan Whitney and Kyle Peterson rank among the top players in the conference. Field, Whitney and Peterson will be the top hurlers throwing to O’Connor behind the plate. Whitney, an all-MVC selection his first two years, and fellow junior Drew Wilson spark the offense. Some have Dirigo pegged for a rebuilding year after winning its first state title last year and losing all but two starters. But coach Ryan Palmer, who led Mt. Abram to the playoffs last year, has the talent to contentd. Arik Fenstermacher takes over the ace role, and will be backed on the hill by Cody St. Germain and Ben Holmes. Speedy leadoff hitter Spencer Ross will be the offensive catalyst. Also gutted by graduation was Livermore Falls, which graduated six starters who won 50 games in their career. The Andies will sometimes start five sophomores and freshmen, and the lack of varsity experience is most telling in the pitching staff. They will be throwing to sophomore catcher Brandon Hodges, who steadily improved during a trial by fire freshman season. Normally known for their power, the Andies will rely more on the speed of Bryan Maurais, Alex Rose and Hunter Brett. Like Livermore, Jay will be trying to make the most of its final season before the neighboring schools merge in the fall. The Tigers are also young, but first-year coach Mike Simoneau does have a couple of veteran pitchers to count on in Jake Lord and Eli Capen. Lord, Billy Calden and Jake Bessey lead the offense. Mt. Abram is focused on a youth movement as well, but the Roadrunners still have a number of contributors left over from last year’s 10-win squad. Junior Josh Beedy leads the mound corps.

Class D

It is a rare rebuilding year for Richmond, winners of the last two Western D titles and the defending state champion, so the rest of the EWC may want to take advantage. The Bobcats should still be a factor, but Rangeley, Forest Hills and last year’s regional runner-up, Greenville, have the talent and experience to overtake them. Senior pitchers Zeke Hall and Jordan Richard lead the Lakers, along with senior third baseman Regan Sargent and junior catcher Alex Morton. Buckfield has three seniors, too, but they don’t have varsity experience. Senior Kasey Robertson, juniors Alan Hedrick and Cody White and sophomore Dalton Hart will play important roles on the team.

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