After selecting all four 2009 Eastern Maine champions in schoolboy basketball — Edward Little of Auburn, Camden Hills of Rockport, Calais and Woodland — in this space before the season began, there’s obviously no place to go but down with this prognostication stuff.
Nevertheless, it’s time to pick some Eastern Maine baseball champs.
Class A: Brewer and Bangor have finished at the top of the pack for the last three years, with Brewer winning its first regional title in 20 years last spring before suffering a heartbreaking loss to Deering of Portland in the state final.
Both the Witches and Bangor, state champ in 2006 and EM winner in 2007, will be solidly in the mix again this year, as should neighboring Hampden Academy, which came on strong late in the season to reach last year’s regional final.
But this Eastern A field may be one of the more balanced in recent years, with Skowhegan another contender from the north while Cony of Augusta — which graduated just two starters from its 2008 team that reached the semifinals — and Mount Ararat of Topsham — which has 11 seniors back — also will contend.
The pick: Cony.
Class B: Gardiner steamrolled to its first state title since 1947 last spring, defeating its four postseason opponents by a combined 40-4 and winning its regional semifinal and final and state championship games all by the 10-run rule.
So the question is whether the Tigers have fallen far enough back to the pack, or whether anyone in that pack has elevated its game enough to challenge coach Jim Palmer’s club this year.
Certainly Gardiner will be different, with 2008 Mr. Baseball Kyle Stilphen now applying his hard-hitting ways at the University of Maine.
And a host of rivals, among them Waterville, Ellsworth, Bucksport, Caribou, Camden Hills of Rockport and Medomak Valley of Waldoboro, hope to be in position to dethrone the Tigers.
But Gardiner returns a fairly deep pitching staff and another individual standout in junior pitcher-shortstop Forrest Chadwick to lead the way.
The pick: Gardiner.
Class C: Three-time defending champion Searsport is in a rebuilding mode after collecting its second state title in three years.
That leaves several other teams with an eye on the regional prize, led by perennial power George Stevens Academy.
Coach Dan Kane’s Eagles also suffered some major graduation losses from the 2008 team that fell to Searsport in an 11-inning EM final, but they return a top pitcher in Pete Dickinson and an offense led by Nick Saunders and Nate Hines.
Other contenders include a veteran Orono squad, Stearns of Millinocket, Houlton, Washington Academy of East Machias and Calais.
The pick: George Stevens.
Class D: This is the clearest choice of all, at least as the games are just beginning.
Katahdin of Stacyville graduated just one senior off last year’s 18-player roster, leaving the ultimate in veteran teams back to build on its 2008 Eastern Maine title and 16-2 record.
Coach Marty McCarthy’s Cougars feature a pitching standout in senior righthander Andy Kay, and a solid lineup including Josh Guiggey, Ethan Qualey and Evan McCarthy.
Rival Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook, which fell to Katahdin in last year’s EM final and returns its own top pitcher in Dakota Sleeper, will be back in the hunt, with Woodland, Shead of Eastport and Ashland also expected to contend.
The pick: Katahdin.