Oxford Hills scratched a seven-year itch for Eastern Maine teams last year by beating Westbrook for the state championship, and their should be plenty of teams from the KVAC vying to continue the streak for the East. The Vikings return six starters from their championship squad, led by pitcher Chris Jennings and catcher Rusell Estes. Eastern A runner-up Edward Little lost five starters but has loads of experience returning to the mound, led by Kyle Giguere, Chris Merrill, Adam Redmun and Derek Doucette. Gardiner, led by one of the KVAC’s top hurlers, Mike Burdin, should challenge for the top spot. Mt. Blue’s optimism for the season suffered a setback when pitcher Adam Wallace suffered a partially-torn labrum, but the Cougars remain strong up the middle and still have a solid staff led by Steve Wells and Adam Gilbert. Mt. Ararat, Brunswick, Bangor and Morse should also contend, and Lewiston, with Bowdoin-bound Luke Potter leading the rotation and an improved defense, could be one of the surprise teams of the conference.

Western A is Portland’s to lose. The Bulldogs graduated just two key players from the team that lost to Westbrook in last year’s regional final. Deering is pegged for a rebuilding year, but the Rams are never too far from the front of the pack. Gorham, which moved up from Class B this year, should contend for a high seed, along with Thornton Academy.

Class B

In most classes, losing a defending state champion like Gorham would cause a major shift, but Class B is still loaded with traditionally strong programs to fill the void. Cape Elizabeth is just two years removed from the state title and should contend once again, along with Greely, the consensus favorite. Trying to keep pace will be Poland, the surprise of the WMC last year. The Knights lost five seniors but have an experienced infield and added pitching depth and offensive pop with St. Dom’s transfer Brent Cary. Gray-New Gloucester, which lost only one starter, could be the most improved team. Maranacook and Oak Hill boast strong pitch staffs and will contend out of the KVAC. Mountain Valley lost six starters and lots of team speed, but should be able to score more than enough runs for pitchers Marcus Palmer (12-1 the last two years) and Chris Cayer. Lisbon returns to Class B and returns six starters, including all-conference second baseman/pitcher Mike Wilkins.

Defending regional champion Mount Desert Island leads the list of Eastern Maine contenders, along with Winslow, Foxcroft Academy and Presque Isle.

Class C

Defending state champion St. Dom’s boasts one of the top pitchers in the state in Brady Blackman, who is heading to USM to play baseball next fall. The key to retaining the title will be finding second and third starters to complement Blackman and some offensive production to support Blackman and catcher Mike Carpenter. Monmouth is the favorite out of the MVC with a deep pitching staff led by Ben Seefeldt. Sean Holbrook and Scott Ogden. One of the top catchers in the state, Tavis Hasenfus, leads a speedy Winthrop team that should push the Mustangs. Jay is another team that should win games by putting pressure on opposing defenses.

George Stevens Academy looks to continue its dominance of Eastern Maine, seeking its fifth straight regional title with a roster that graduated just one starter from last year. Searsport, Orono and Houlton will give chase.

Class D

Richmond lost just two seniors from last year’s top-seeded 14-4 squad, and since four-time regional champion North Yarmouth Academy has been promoted to Class C, the Bobcats are the favorites. Buckfield’s roster, led by Matt Lowell and Jamie Henderson, also remains pretty much intact and should benefit from the half-dozen sophomores who saw significant playing time as freshmen.

Defending champion Deer Isle-Stonington is the favorite in Eastern Maine again, with Lee Academy and Southern Aroostook expected to challenge.

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