Class A North came down to the Edward Little and Bangor last year, with the Rams winning the regional title decisively en route to yet another state championship. The majority of KVAC observers believe they’ll be the last teams standing again this season.
EL expects to bounce back and be even stronger despite some key losses to graduation. The Red Eddies take their cue from their ace, senior right-hander Jarod Norcross Plourde, who was the 2016 Sun Journal Player of the Year and is headed to Division 1 Hartford on a baseball scholarship.
“He’s coming in with great confidence and focus, and that definitely spills over to everyone else,” EL coach Dave Jordan said.
Jordan’s No. 2 starter, senior Damien St. Pierre, gives the Eddies a lot of confidence when he’s on the mound, too. The entire pitching staff is deep and balanced with righties and lefties, and will keep them in games if the offense struggles.
That could be a big if, however, because the lineup is stocked with two outstanding hitters in senior outfielder Tyler Blanchard, who hit over .420 last year, and Norcross Plourde, who batted .417, and a bushel of other bats capable of executing Jordan’s trademark style that forces opposing defenses to execute.
They do have some roles that still need to be defined, and the lack of time on the field in preseason due to the snow didn’t help. But Jordan is confident his underclassmen will be ready.
Oxford Hills graduated nine seniors, including a half-dozen regulars. The Vikings return just one senior starter, but coach Shane Slicer’s isn’t lacking young talent.
“We have to fill some roles, but these kids are ready,” Slicer said. “They’re very physically and mentally tough and blue-collar. The hard part is figuring out what the depth chart looks like with the late winter we’ve had.”
Seniors Colton Carson and Emery Chickering will be keys to the pitching staff. Pitcher/third baseman Troy Johnson, shortstop Janek Luksza, catcher Kaden Cutler and outfielders Hunter LaBossiere and Cam Slicer lead a talented junior class. Once they get their roles defined and some varsity experience, the Vikings could be dangerous in the playoffs.
A young Lewiston team picked up some valuable varsity experience last year in a lot of close games. The hope is that will translate into some more wins after a 4-12 record in coach Will Emerson’s first season.
One area where the Blue Devils will be lacking varsity experience is at the top of the pitching rotation. Emerson is hoping for someone among seniors Dalton Wing and Jared Rubin and juniors Gordon Beckwith, Hunter Landry and Sean Locke to emerge as his go-to guys.
The Blue Devils’ offensive and defensive strength is their speed. They just need to take advantage of it by limiting the mistakes that cost them last year.
“We’ve got a good group of guys, an athletic group,” Emerson said. “We’re going to be fast, not overpowering, but I think if we can play consistent defense, we can win more games.”
Mt. Blue finds itself in a similar position to the one Lewiston was in last year. The Cougars are rebuilding with a new coach, Steve Lancaster. A Mt. Blue alum who played at Maine for Dr. John Winkin before developing arm trouble, Lancaster thinks the Cougars can make great strides this year with a veteran nucleus.
“Our strengths this year are experience and defense,” Lancaster said. “We have at least seven juniors from last year returning as seniors this year. Much of the lineup could consist of veteran players. If the group of seniors work hard, last year will have nothing in common with last year’s (2-14) season.”
Lancaster likes his pitching staff headed by senior Miles Pelletier. The Cougars should be strong up the middle with junior catcher Ethan Andrews and seniors Alex Philbrick (shortstop) and David McDonald (second base). The offense has a little bit further to go, but the coach thinks his team’s work ethic in preseason will help them improve their production.