Pitching remains focal point as region’s Class A baseball teams begin new season

Posted April 23, 2014, at 12:26 p.m.
Last modified April 23, 2014, at 2:31 p.m.
Maine District 3 pitcher Justin Courtney (16) of Bangor delivers to the plate against Team Canada in the fourth inning of their opening game of the Senior League World Series on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013, at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
Michael York | BDN
Maine District 3 pitcher Justin Courtney (16) of Bangor delivers to the plate against Team Canada in the fourth inning of their opening game of the Senior League World Series on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013, at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor. Buy Photo

The Eastern Maine Class A high school baseball season was scheduled to kick off Wednesday, and pitching figures to rule the region again this spring.

Messalonskee High School of Oakland often used a pitching-by-committee approach — in which several pitchers split those duties in a game — to rise from the No. 6 seed in the final Heal point ratings and win its second straight regional championship.

In the eight Eastern A playoff games that led to the Eagles retaining their title, only twice did a team score double-digit runs compared with 10 instances when a team scored three runs or fewer.

And that doesn’t count the Class A state final, when Westbrook edged Messalonskee 2-0.

Such low-scoring games, enhanced by the continued use of the toned-down BBCOR bats, means the recent emphasis on pitching, defense and manufacturing runs should remain prominent in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and beyond.

“For the most part I think we’re pretty much done seeing 15-6 or 15-12 ballgames,” said Hampden coach McLean Poulin, whose Broncos were scheduled to open their regular season at Lewiston on Wednesday afternoon. “With the way the pitching is around the league and the way the bats are now those kinds of games probably have come and gone.”

And don’t doubt that there is plenty of pitching around the Eastern A ranks to maintain that trend.

Messalonskee returns the likes of Devin Warren, Ben Frazee, Jake Dexter and Nick Mayo, all pitchers who got high-pressure innings either as a starter or reliever for coach Ray Bernier’s club last spring.

Oxford Hills of South Paris, which went 17-3 and lost to the Eagles 3-2 in last year’s regional final, returns three quality pitchers from a year ago in Riley Chickering, Walter Feeney and Dalton Rice.

Eddie Emerson of Lewiston and John Parker of Brunswick are among other aces around the KVAC who should give their teams the chance to win any game they’re starting.

Then there are Bangor and Hampden Academy, both of which have strong top-of-the-rotation arms as well as sufficient depth to fuel what they hope are deep postseason runs.

Bangor, 12-5 a year ago, returns two pitchers bound for the University of Maine in senior right-hander Justin Courtney and sophomore lefty Trevor DeLaite, with considerable depth expected to come from the likes of Andrew Hillier, Jordan Treadwell and James Prescott.

“Justin probably throws 89 or 90 [mph], and he’s coming off a strong summer of Legion ball,” said veteran Bangor coach Jeff Fahey, whose team opens its season at Oxford Hills on Friday. “And Trevor pitches more like a junior or a senior than a sophomore.

“You hope they can get six starts apiece [in a 16-game regular-season schedule], and with the way they pitch we expect to have a pretty good chance to win most of those.”

Hampden, which finished 15-3 last spring and reached the Eastern A semifinals for the second straight season, returns the reigning KVAC Class A North player of the year in hard-throwing senior right-hander Matt Martin (7-0 last spring) along with junior Tristan Gardner, who takes over the No. 2 spot in the Broncos’ rotation after being the team’s top reliever in 2013.

“Matt’s been a terrific pitcher for us, but probably just as important is that he’s a natural leader and he’s been that way for us since his sophomore year,” said Poulin. “We’re going to be a relatively young team, and having his leadership out there is going to be key for us.”

Brewer, which advanced to the regional quarterfinals last spring, graduated staff ace Jeff Weeks, but coach Dana Corey and the Witches also are expected to have their share of experienced pitching available, including sophomore Matt Pushard, senior Drew Hutchins and junior Evan Riva.

Brewer begins its regular season Friday at Mt. Blue of Farmington.

Brewer to ‘open’ track

The Brewer School District trustees and the Brewer High School track community will conduct a grand opening ceremony for the track and field facility at the Brewer Community School on Saturday morning.

Special guests and contributors to the project have been invited to the event, which will precede the first track meet at the facility during which the new “Jumbotron” scoreboard will be used — capping off an effort more than three years in the making.

The public is encouraged to attend the 10:45 a.m. ceremony, as well as the track meet that begins at 11 a.m.

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