MONMOUTH — Since losing in the Class C state championship last June, Monmouth baseball players have been focused on getting back to, and winning, the title game.

I think it’s driven them all year,” Mustangs coach Eric Palleschi said. “They’ve been a successful group through football, soccer, basketball, and it gave them a taste of what it’s like to be there, up close. It’s changed their mentality to, ‘Let’s finish this off.’ That was something missing.”

The 5-0 loss to Orono is the Class C championship is still on the players’ minds as the prepare for the upcoming season.

It sticks with you, you aren’t going to forget a game like that,” senior Hayden Fletcher said. “We were one game away from doing what we were supposed to do, and that fires you up for the next season.”

I think it’s the driving force that’s pushing us this year because, coming off that loss, we only lost one senior (Cameron Armstrong),” junior Isaac Oliveira said. “He was a good part of our team, but it’s a driving force this year because we want to get back and win.”

Armstrong was the Mustangs’ ace last year. This year, they have four or five solid pitchers, but, Palleschi said, they don’t yet have a go-to hurler.

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“You were able to hand Cam the ball and you knew what you were getting, and you knew you were going to get a game out of him and could give him the ball and say, ‘I need you to keep them off the bases,’ and he could do it,” Palleschi said. “We have a lot of guys that can throw strikes, but we don’t have a (Lisbon pitcher Hunter) Brissette. We don’t have that clear number one, but we have five guys that we feel really confident in.”

Fletcher said that, eventually, an ace will rise up. But, in the meantime, the Mustangs should be fine.

We don’t have one ace, but we can all throw,” Fletcher, who pitched the only innings of his varsity career as Monmouth’s starter in the state title game, said. “It’s been like that since middle school. We all pitch, and it definitely helps and gives you a lot of depth. I feel like eventually someone will step up in that role; we don’t know who it’s going to be, but someone will carry us and we can fill in the spots until then.”

Monmouth’s nucleus of players have been playing since Cal Ripken baseball and have developed a chemistry that is one of the team’s strengths. 

“All of us have been playing together all the way through,” Oliviera said. “We’re tight like a family. We just know how everyone works and we just know what everyone does. It’s good communication on and off the field. We have our own Snapchat group chat and we’re communicating every night about how the game went, practice went, stuff like that. When someone makes an error, it’s our team’s error. We don’t like to blame it on one person, it’s on the team.”

On their quest to return to the state title game, the Mustangs will face plenty of challenges from their fellow Mountain Valley Conference teams.

Lisbon returns the majority of its team this season, and other teams, such as Oak Hill and Mt. Abram, are loaded with talent at many positions.

Many of Monmouth’s players were part of successful teams earlier this school year in football (reached Class D title game), soccer (C South semifinals) and basketball (C South runner-up). Palleschi said those experiences have made them better baseball players.

“There have been some kids that came in bigger and stronger,” Palleschi said. “We had some kids you wouldn’t recognize. Sammy came in taller and learned to be more athletic. Luke Harmon spent a lot of time in the weight room, so he and his bat are quicker. A lot of those kids played soccer, football and basketball so that all helped. It’s the maturity this year with these guys, they’re a lot more mature.”

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