There was a lot of finger pointing going on during preseason between Class A North coaches.
It’s hard to pin-point the favorite to win the region this year, if only because it depends on which coach you ask. And even then any given coach may point to a handful of teams.
“I would expect Messalonskee, Skowhegan, EL, Lewiston, Cony and Bangor (are the favorites),” Oxford Hills coach Cindy Goddard said. “The league is going to be very competitive this year, which is going to make it a fun spring.”
“I know Messalonskee lost a lot, but … they’ll be all right. Skowhegan was a sixth seed and made it to the state championship. You don’t look past them. And you never look past Brewer or Bangor, or EL,” Lewiston coach Mike Child said. “I think the whole thing is pretty much up in the air. I mean, anybody, I guess, could take over, take it. I’d say it was wide open. I’d say EL is going to be pretty good, Oxford Hills is going to be good.”
Edward Little made it all the way to the regional final a year ago as the No. 4 seed, but fell to perennial-favorite-turned-Cinderella Skowhegan. The Red Eddies graduated their battery of pitcher Sarah Hammond and catcher Karli Stubbs, but bring back everybody else from last year.
“The KVAC is full of competitive teams and (we) are determined to meet the challenge,” EL coach Elaine Derosby said. “The leaders in the senior class and the hard-hitting junior class saw what it takes to reach the top and are striving to take another step.”
Seniors Kylie Bureau and Olivia Jensen will take turns filling Hammond’s spot in the circle, while junior Emmy Lashua will step in behind the plate. Derosby said she also has nine underclassmen who could claw out roles on the team.
Oxford Hills, last year’s No. 2 seed which lost to Skowhegan in the regional semifinals, also has an open spot in the middle of the diamond. Pitchers Cody Akers and Ericka Whitman are both gone, with senior Cora Hooker and freshman Lauren Nicole Merrill slated to take their place in the circle.
The Vikings roster features seven seniors and three juniors, as well as Merrill and freshman utility player Madison Day.
“I expect the team to be one of the top teams in the KVAC league,” Goddard said. “We have all the components needed to be successful.”
While EL and Oxford Hills are fairly known commodities among local teams, Lewiston is still looking to make a name for itself.
The Blue Devils finished 8-8 during the regular season last year in Mike Child’s first year as coach, and even won their first-round playoff game before falling to Oxford Hills.
“We’re hoping to do better than we did last year, 8-8, quarterfinal game,” Child said. “But I think making it there was going in the right direction.”
Lewiston will lean on its juniors, who Child said need to be leaders this season. Among them is Meagan Gosselin, who Child thinks is one of the best catchers in the state. She’ll be taking pitches from classmates Megan Theriault and Jordan Mynahan.
Child is trying to temper expectations for this season, even if he does like the direction his team is headed in.
“I know some coaches would say that we should be somewhere in the top echelon, but I can’t put us that high yet,” Child said.
The top seed from last year, Messalonskee, didn’t lose a regular season game, but the Eagles did lose coach Leo Bouchard, who retired last year.
The top team in the standings to not make the playoffs last season was Mt. Blue, but second-year coach Ron Smith brings back most of that team. The Cougars graduated pitcher Haley Farrington, along with infielders Lauren Guppy and Olivia Ryan, but they have senior Taylor Burke, who will get some time in the circle, as well as five sophomores who saw varsity time as freshmen last year.
Smith said he’s hoping the experience and momentum that his team gained during his first season at the helm will help his squad improve in the standings this year.