Oxford Hills pitcher Colton Carson pitches against Camden Hills during a game last June.

Oxford Hills appeared to be ahead of schedule in 2017 when it finished the regular season as the top seed in Class A North with a 14-2 record.

Bangor stalled the Vikings’ growth spurt by beating them in the regional semifinal before going on to win its fourth consecutive state title. With 11 key contributors back in 2018, Oxford Hills is hoping to take the next step, or two.

“We are still fairly young with only four seniors,” Vikings coach Shane Slicer said, “but the youngsters gained valuable experience last spring and summer, winning the Zone 2 (American Legion) regular season and tournament championships.”

Slicer expects his team to stay hungry and focused for a deeper high school run. The pitching staff is talented and deep, led by junior Colton Carson, who last year verbally committed to play at the University of Maine. Troy Johnson and Janek Luksza are tough alternatives for opponents that miss Carson’s turn. 

The defense behind them will be strong up the middle. The offense, led by outfielder Hunter LaBossiere, could be formidable, too, with more consistency.

Mt. Ararat was the surprise team of the region last year, earning upsets over No. 2 Brewer and No. 3 Edward Little before falling to Bangor in the final. One candidate to disrupt Bangor and Oxford Hills’ plans could be Lewiston. The Blue Devils were one of the most improved teams in the KVAC last year and have most of their talent back, including ace Evan Cox and catcher Brock Belanger. New coach Darren Hartley has a lot of speed to work with and one of the top outfielders in the region in Hunter Landry.

Edward Little’s prospects for keeping pace with the favorites rests mostly on its inexperienced pitching. Brothers Ethan and Austin Brown and seniors Grant Hartley and Nick Hathaway will have to log more innings after the graduation of the Red Eddies’ top pitchers. The lineup, with the power-hitting Hartley, Austin Brown and senior catcher Maxx Bell, should give the pitchers plenty of run support.

Mt. Blue continues its rebuilding program with a focus on improving upon last year’s .198 team batting average. Coach Steve Lancaster likes the work his players are putting in to improve and plans to spark the offense by taking advantage of his abundant team speed.

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