There was no going out on a limb in suggesting that the Bangor-based Coffee News Comrades Senior American Legion baseball team would be strong this summer.
There’s recent history to consider — the Comrades have won three of the last four American Legion state championships, fueled by a Bangor High School program that this spring extended its run of Class A state titles to a record five consecutive years.
Even more recent history added to the expectations.
When the Brewer Falcons American Legion program was unable to field a team this summer, veteran players from the 2018 Class B state champion Brewer High School baseball team were sent across the Penobscot River to join the Comrades.
It’s been a perfect union so far, with Bangor Coffee News comfortably atop the Zone 1 standings at 10-0 and the zone tournament little more than a week away at Husson University in Bangor.
But that undefeated record is just part of the story, according to Bangor Coffee News head coach Dave Morris.
These players, once rivals in many instances, now truly are Comrades on the diamond.
“The wins have been nice, but even better than that is that this is such a good team together,” said Morris, whose club was scheduled to visit the Trenton Acadians Tuesday evening. “They like each other, they rib each other and have fun with it. It’s been a really smooth transition.”
The team features most of the stalwarts from both high school state championship teams.
From Bangor are Caleb Bois, Nick Canarr, Zach Cowperthwaite, Gary Farnham, Zach Ireland, Noah Missbrenner, Jacob Munroe, Zach Murray, Tyler Parke, Carson Prouty, Karl Sund and Noah Tappan.
From Brewer are Evan Andrews, Jack Corey, Andrew Kiley, Kobe Rogerson and Levi Williamson, along with former Bucksport High School standout Chase Carmichael, who also played previously for Brewer’s American Legion team.
The stacked roster has made for an interesting jigsaw puzzle when it comes to distributing playing time. Take shortstop, where both Ireland (University of Southern Maine) and Rogerson (Husson University) both are bound for the college baseball world this fall.
Both standouts have seen time at their most natural position as well as in other spots around the infield this summer.
“I told all the kids at the beginning that I’m going play everybody during the season and at the end you’ve got to earn it,” Morris said. “We just really have a lot of kids who are unselfish.”
Morris credits an early summer trip to Rhode Island to play in the ITRI Square Cranston Classic, a weekend tournament featuring various American Legion powers from throughout the region and beyond, for strengthening the bonds among the players.
“Going down to that tournament really helped even more than I imagined,” said Morris, whose team finished 2-2 at that event. “They spent a lot of time with each other, and it wasn’t even so much a baseball thing but just getting to know each other and like each other.”
Those relationships have translated into a style of play most of the players from both schools already had been familiar with at the high school level.
“Overall we’re doing a good job,” Morris said. “One game recently we were down 2-0, but they didn’t have a presence about them about winning or losing. It was just, ‘Let’s continue to play hard,’ and that’s what they did and we were able to come back and win.”
If the Comrades have struggled with any phase of the game so far this summer, it’s been at the plate.
“I think overall we’ve played very good defense and we’ve pitched well,” Morris said. “The tough thing with this (16-game regular-season) schedule is the kids are only hitting three days a week compared to high school when for most teams it was six days at least of swinging a bat or taking some form of batting practice.
“So the lack of continuity with hitting is something people have had to adjust to because they’re not doing it as much, but it’s coming.”
And that’s bad news for other Senior Legion teams around the state as postseason play approaches.
“It’s just a good team,” Morris said. “We told them all at the beginning of the summer that it was going to be good competition, but a lot of these guys want to play college ball and that’s what they’re going to see when they get to that next level, so this is a great way to get ready.”
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