Newcomers? Yes.

Pushovers? Hardly.

Northern Oxford County is fielding an American Legion baseball team this summer for the first time in seven years.

And the team just might have enough to win a Zone III title.

“The last time we had a team was in my last year of eligibility, in 2000,” coach Ryan Palmer said.

Palmer coaches at Mt. Abram High School in the spring, but is from the Mountain Valley High School drawing area. His players at Mt. Abram play Legion ball for the team based in Farmington, which plays in Zone II.

But for Palmer, the summer means shifting gears, something he was finally willing to do to get the program back off the ground.

“I’ve been asking about it for a few years,” Palmer said, “but I didn’t have the time to be the coach. This year, they asked me if I’d coach, and I said to heck with it, I’ll find the time.”

Palmer’s players this season all come with experience – mounds of it. Drawing from Class B power Mountain Valley and from Class C perennial contender Dirigo, Northern Oxford County’s roster is stacked with solid hitting, and depth at pitcher.

“We have the core players from Mountain Valley and the core from Dirigo,” Palmer said. “There’s a lot of talent here. The one thing that we’ll have to worry about is that some players will have to play in positions they might not be familiar with, but they’re all good players, and I’m sure they’ll figure it out.”

Justin Staires, Matt Laubauskas, Matt Lyons and Ben French find their way over from Mountain Valley, while John Smith, Spencer Berry, Aaron Fenstermacher and Derek Daley arrive this summer from Dirigo.

Nate Staires and Chris Cayer join the team as 19-year-olds, too, giving Palmer some more high-end experience.

And as the new guys in town, Northern Oxford will likely keep the rest of the teams guessing, at least on the first time through the schedule.

“The thing about that team is that they’re the unknown,” Gayton coach Todd Cifelli said. “We’ve heard about what they can do, but where most of us don’t play against them in high school season, it’s hard to predict how they’ll do here.”

Palmer has the solution to that one already.

“We’re treating each game like it’s an all-star game,” Palmer said. “This is definitely a step up from high school, and the kids know that. We’re going into every game thinking we can win.”

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