Shane Slicer is in his 16th season as Oxford Hills’ baseball coach. He led the Vikings state championships in 2005 and 2010.

Shane Slicer may have a scheduling conflict this summer, but it’s one that only comes once in a lifetime.

The Oxford Hills baseball coach will be inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame on July 22 at its annual induction ceremony at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland. That’s around the time the American Legion postseason starts, but Slicer, who also coaches perennial Legion power Bessey Motors, has had that date circled since hearing the news from MBHOF board member Don Douglas last Sunday.

“It’s kind of nice when you go do something that you love to do, and do it for a long time, and get recognized for it,” he said.

The ever-modest Slicer suggested his longevity (he’s been involved in baseball for 40 years, the last 16 as the Vikings’ coach) is what got him into the Hall. But he is one of the most successful, and respected, coaches at any level in Maine.

The Oxford Hills and University of Maine graduate has led the Vikings to two state championships (2005, 2010) while compiling a 190-83 record and earning KVAC Coach of the Year honors five times. He’s also led Bessey Motors to multiple zone titles and state tournaments.

Slicer said getting the call prompted him to reflect on the relationships he’s forged thanks to baseball throughout his life.

“We were celebrating and I’m thinking, ‘Holy moly, it’s been 40 years,'” he said. “All of the teammates and coaches I had at Oxford Hills and then going to Orono and all of the teammates I had there, and then all of the kids I’ve coached here — I’ve had quite a few friends because of baseball.”

Slicer will join a long list of disciples of the late Dr. John Winkin in the Hall this summer.  From 1990-92, he was one of the legendary coach’s most valued role players off the bench, but it was really more of an apprenticeship in coaching for Slicer.

 “I probably could have gone somewhere else and gotten more playing time, but I knew pretty early on I wasn’t going pro, so I just started picking his brain,” Slicer said. “He was a tough guy to get to know then because he was always on the go and always working with players. But I went out of my way to talk to him every single day.”

One of the most valuable aspects of coaching he learned from Winkin usually comes in pretty handy this time of year, Slicer said.

“The biggest influence he had on me was how he conducted practice,” he said. “We were always moving. Everyone was always involved at all times. He knew how to make the most out of the space he had to practice in, and we were inside so much. He knew how to make it an advantage, and you see (USM coach and another Winkin disciple) Eddie Flaherty doing it now. “

“After he was done at Maine, he coached some Legion up to Bangor and I was coaching against him once and he was so proud of how well my teams were doing,” he said. “He would call to congratulate me after some wins. He was always happy to see a member of the UMaine family having success.”

Cougars at home in Greyhound country

Dirigo literally flipped the field at Harlow Park to get some outdoor practice time at the end of preseason. But the Cougars will have to hit the road for their home opener.

Dirigo hosts Boothbay in both teams’ Mountain Valley Conference opener at Lisbon High School at 1 p.m. on Friday. The game had to be moved from Harlow Park, where the infield still needs some time to dry.

Cougars coach Ryan Palmer said Harlow should be suitable for games next week — with the weather’s cooperation, of course.  He didn’t want a backlog in his schedule, though, so he took up Lisbon coach Randy Ridley on his offer to use the Greyhounds’ diamond.

“Our pitching’s so thin I didn’t want games to get backed up if I could help it,” he said. 

Palmer termed Harlow’s all-dirt infield “a little soupy.” The outfield grass has dried enough, and it’s deep enough to center field, to allow them to essentially turn the diamond 180 degrees and practice with home plate in the outfield.

Dirigo’s pitching staff is depleted due to arm problems plaguing its two senior leaders, Luke Lueders and Cooper Chiasson. Palmer expects Chiasson back in early May, while Lueders threw off a mound on Thursday and didn’t experience any pain in his elbow, which he dislocated during football season.

Palmer said Lueders’ innings will be limited this season.

“The doctor recommended he not throw more than one, maybe two innings if his pitch count is low,” he said.

Palmer plans to have Lueders supplement his four-man pitching committee of senior Cam Turner, juniors Wyatt Lufkin and Sam Holmes and freshman Cole Brown. Committee seems a more appropriate term than rotation because Palmer plans to use all four in each game early in the season while sorting out roles for Lueders and Chiasson.

“There really isn’t anyone that I’ve got confidence in to go five, six, seven innings, so we want to have everyone available for every game,” he said. “No one threw more than two innings at a time in preseason.”

The Cougars played three preseason games against Old Orchard Beach, St. Dom’s and John Bapst, which has former Jay High School star Ryan DiPompo as an assistant coach.

Dirigo will also play a limited JV schedule after the RSU 56 school board approved Palmer’s proposal for a privately funded team.

“I was expecting 20-25 kids and we had 16 come out, but we still have a lot of very young players and I wanted them to have a JV schedule,” he said. “The conference plays a few (JV) innings after the varsity games.”

The Cougars have home-and-home games scheduled with Mountain Valley and a couple of more games this month. Another four or five games will be added for May, when more daylight means more playing time.

Lisbon looking to fill void

Lisbon coach Randy Ridley joked he invited Dirigo and Boothbay to open their season on his field to make advanced scouting easier. The Greyhounds open their season at Boothbay next Monday, then host Dirigo on Wednesday.

“There’s always an ulterior motive. You know us coaches,” he said.

The defending Class C South champions had a busy preseason, playing games against Mt. Ararat, Medomak Valley, Brunswick and Traip. Ridley welcomed every opportunity to figure out who can fill the void left by graduated all-conference players Tyler Halls, Ryley Austin and Nick Lerette.

“It was a good preseason for us, with everyone we lost from last year’s team. There are a lot of holes to fill,” he said.

Despite losing last year’s ace, Halls, the Greyhounds should still be in pretty good shape at the top of their pitching staff with Noah Austin and Lucas Francis back and Sean Scott moving up in the rotation.

Ridley likes the experience he has coming back but wants those veterans to fill another void left by the graduates.

“The core I’ve got coming back is very good. And there’s a good mixture of veterans and some young kids,” he said. “If there’s been a struggle, it’s been filling that role of guys like Tyler and Nick as vocal leaders.”

One key addition this year will be senior Jonah Sautter. A standout goalie in soccer and the school’s all-time leading scorer in basketball, Sautter will play a utility role for the Greyhounds and see some time on the mound.

“He can probably fill the same kind of role Ryley Austin did for us last year, sort of as a utility player who plays multiple positions,” Ridley said. “The beauty of it is he hasn’t played since eighth grade, so his arm’s fresh. I think he’ll be a surprise addition.”

Runnin’ with the Devils

Lewiston didn’t get many chances to exhibit its formidable team speed in Thursday’s 5-4 season-opening loss to Bangor. 

Blue Devils coach Darren Hartley said he was a little hesitant to set runners in motion against the Rams, partially because of the defensive prowess of catcher Tyler Parke, but also because his hitters were making “pretty decent contact on their pitcher (Zach Cowperthwaite).”

“I want to be aggressive but, credit to Bangor. Their catcher doesn’t skip the ball behind him. He doesn’t kick it off to the side. We couldn’t really get more aggressive on the bases,” he said.

Hartley doesn’t expect opponents will forget about the speed of Hunter Landry, Brock Belanger, Evan Cox and company just because they weren’t swiping bags in the opener.

“I think people know that the top five kids in our order can flat out run, but we didn’t have a chance to move on (Bangor) that much,” he said. 

The Blue Devils host Skowhegan at Bates College on Friday, then host rival Edward Little at the Lewiston Little League (formerly Eliot) field on Monday.

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