Monmouth’s Kane Gould slides into second on an attempted stolen base as Winthrop’s Brooks Bennett waits to put the tag on him during Saturday’s playoff game in Winthrop.
Putting a nightmarish loss in the state championship game in the rearview mirror is always tough. It helps when there are plenty of obstacles ahead to keep the mind and spirit occupied.
Defending C South champion Lisbon faces such a challenge this year after losing a three-run lead to Orono in the final inning of last year’s title game. But the Greyhounds need to focus on grinding through at tough Mountain Valley Conference schedule before they can travel the post-season road to redemption.
Graduating four starters added to the challenge. Coach Randy Ridley has seniors Nick Austin, Sean Scott and Cole Bolduc and returning junior starters Noah Austin and Lucas Francis to lean on.
“Our returning players will have to step up into leadership roles this year and guide the more inexperienced players through the battles with this year’s MVC teams,” Ridley said.
Most coaches in the MVC tapped Hall-Dale as the favorite but expect the Greyhounds to make another bid with Francis, both Austins and Scott anchoring the pitching staff.
Winthrop has no shortage of arms to turn to, with coach Marc Fortin estimating all but one of the 15 players on his roster capable of taking the ball at some point during the season. Senior Greg Fay and sophomore Ryan Baird will be the No. 1 and No. 2 starters, respectively. Junior Jackson Ladd will spark the offense in the leadoff spot.
Monmouth peaked at the right time last season, upsetting Winthrop in the regional semifinals to reach the regional final as a No. 7 seed. The Mustangs graduated a number of lineup stalwarts, including four-year starter Hunter Richardson, and lost two other starters to another sport or school. Seniors Avery Pomerleau, Nick Dovinsky and Devon Poisson form a veteran nucleus that will have to take on more pitching responsibilities.
Dirigo was hoping to have seniors Cooper Chiasson and Luke Lueders pick up much of the pitching load this season, but lingering injuries may limit their availability for the mound. Both still figure prominently in the infield and the lineup, while juniors Wyatt Lufkin and Sam Holmes will be asked to pick up the slack.
MVC coaches generally still keep an eye on St. Dom’s, even though the former MVC rival is now re-established in the Western Maine Conference, in case they meet in the playoffs. The Saints should indeed be a factor with junior southpaw Riley Volpe back to lead the pitching staff. Mack Pelletier, the lone senior, will also help set the tone on the mound and at shortstop.
Telstar graduated the backbone of its roster the last three years in Tanner Wheeler and Josh Eliot. Seniors Boston Ludden and Jarrett Bean are among the returners hoping to make the Rebels stand out in what should be a large second tier in the standings.