Spruce Mountain shortstop Nick Lombardi leaps to catch a high throw as Freeport’s Shea Wagner (7) slides safely into second base as second baseman Landon Brochu (22) watches that action during a playoff game in Livermore Falls last season.
No one at Spruce Mountain is happier the school is back in the Mountain Valley Conference than baseball coach Brian Dube.
Dube, long-time coach at Livermore Falls before the school merged with Jay over seven years ago, helped lead the movement to get the Phoenix back in the MVC after four years in the KVAC. He thinks his team will benefit from not having to make trips to places such as Belfast and Newport anymore.
“We put on over 800 miles in eight away games,” he said. “We’re leaving at 1 p.m. and getting home after 9 and we’re driving past these schools that we’ve always played. I’m excited to be back in the league and seeing those coaches again.”
Of course, calling the MVC home means more Class C opponents and fewer available Heal points. But with five senior starters back, the Phoenix will be a tough matchup for whoever they face. That will particularly be the case when senior ace Jordy Daigle is on the mound. But the Phoenix don’t have much varsity experience toeing the rubber after him.
The lineup could be a challenge for MVC pitchers, too, with good speed and six of the nine spots filled by left-handers.
Mountain Valley boasts an ace of its own, senior Hunter Ames, who was 6-0 last season. He does have plenty of varsity experience back up, including Fischer Cormier and Ethan Laubauskas. They should benefit from some strong defense up the middle, led by juniors Will Sorensen at second and Jacob Blanchard in center.
The offense, featuring junior third baseman Garrett Garbarini, showed flashes last year, but needs to be more consistent.
Class B South has been the playground of Western Maine Conference schools for over a decade. Oak Hill was the last non-WMC team to win the region when it was a member of the KVAC. The Raiders are trying to climb back up among the contenders in the MVC but, with one senior, are still at least a year away.
Leavitt lost a short bus trip to Spruce Mountain, but should still be competitive in the KVAC with Tim Albert and David Herman back to lead a veteran rotation. The Hornets also have plenty of speed to pressure the opposition.
Gray-New Gloucester graduated five starters, significantly weakening the up-the-middle strength of last year’s team. A slightly easier schedule and the leadership of seniors such as Josiah Rottari and Eli Winchester should help keep the Patriots in the playoff hunt.
Poland took some lumps up the middle, too, with ace Ben Bernier and catcher Jake Wiseman graduated. Junior Gawain Tibbetts and sophomore Brady Downing lead the Knights’ youth movement.