The Oak Hill Raiders have their sights on the top spot in the top-heavy Mountain Valley Conference.

A season-opening 4-3 loss in eight innings to Lisbon hasn’t decreased the Raiders’ confidence.

“We played a big game against Lisbon and we didn’t feel like it was abnormal,” Raiders coach Chad Stowell said. “It was kind of how we ended the season last year — a one-run loss to end the year, a one-run loss to begin the next one. We felt really comfortable and didn’t feel like we were out of our element and I think that run last year will help us in what we project to be a lot of close baseball games this spring.”

Oak Hill third baseman Kyle Delano reacts after putting tagging out Lisbon’s Hunter Brissette during the fifth inning of Monday’s game in Wales. Lisbon head coach Randy Ridley is at left. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Oak Hill earned Class C South’s top seed last season and reached the regional semifinals before being knocked out by Lisbon 3-2 last June. Only two players graduated, but both played important roles on the 2021 team: Gavin Rawstron, the ace pitcher and shortstop who was named the Sun Journal’s All-Region Player of the Year and was a finalist for the Winkin Award, and third baseman Sam Lindsay.

“Going into the year, we were really excited about the opportunity to build on last year,” Stowell said. “We finished pretty strong last year, number one in the Heals, knocked out by Lisbon in the semifinals. We have a lot of guys returning that are gathering a lot of experience from that run. We only had two seniors last year, but two important parts: Gavin had a special season and Sam Lindsay was a good third baseman.

“We brought back a lot of good pieces and were excited to see how it would come together. I think there will be a pretty tight competition in the conference.”

Advertisement

One of the important returning pieces is Kyle Delano, who pitched four innings Monday. He struck out four batters and, after allowing three runs in the first inning, kept the Greyhounds scoreless for the ensuing three frames.

“Kyle Delano was a second-team all-conference pitcher last year and pitched in a lot of big games,” Stowell said. “Actually, he pitched in the regional semifinal as a sophomore. He went toe-to-toe with Hunter Brissette of Lisbon, who is one of the best in the conference. Then (they) went toe-to-toe again (Monday), and Hunter was just a couple pitches better than he was. I firmly believe Kyle is the best pitcher in our conference, and I think he’s going to show that as the season goes on.”

Trent Drouin has switched from second base to take over at shortstop. Stowell said that Drouin is “one of the best hitters in the conference.”

CHALLENGING START FOR EDDIES

The Red Eddies have started the season 1-2, losing to Bangor and Brewer before a bounce-back victory over Gardiner.

Coach Dave Jordan said that Edward Little has a young team that has been tested early.

Advertisement

“The opponents we have had are very good quality and the guys are getting used to the grind of the season, and they’ve put in a good effort and are looking good,” Jordan said. “We have a lot of really good opponents. We want to keep getting better every game and be peaking at the right time. Typically, our teams have done that the last few years. We’re younger in pitching, good talent, but breaking guys in for more innings than in the past. We do have a good core veteran crew, but a lot of new guys are new to the varsity level.”

The Red Eddies’ schedule is loaded with good teams from Class A, including KVAC powers Bangor, Oxford Hills and Lewiston. Jordan welcomes the challenge and hopes it will make Edward Little better.

“Bangor has 12 seniors back and lost to a walk-off walk in the state championship last year,” Jordan said. “You have to play a very sound game to beat them. Oxford Hills is very similar. Lewiston has some good arms and ball players. There are so many teams right now that have pitching. They all have one or two stud pitchers. Messalonskee, Skowhegan, there are so many good teams out there, and I don’t want to miss any.

“I think it’s going to be a very competitive season. I would rather have it with tough competition, and I feel like we have a reputation that we have a formidable team, so we are going to get everyone’s best and I think that’s good.”

WINTHROP WORKS IN YOUNG GUNS

The Winthrop Ramblers are freshmen-heavy, according to head coach JJ Novak, but the young players have been important to the team’s 2-1 record to begin the season.

Advertisement

“We’ve got a lot of freshmen and they’re stepping up quite nicely,” Novak said. “Some are starting, they’re hitting the ball well, a lot of positive things are going on. We’re hitting the ball better through the first three games this year than we did last year.”

Winthrop lost to Madison 7-6 on opening day, then defeated Mountain Valley 16-0 and Carrabec 10-8. Even though they are young, Novak said the Ramblers can be competitive in a tough Mountain Valley Conference.

“Our team is solid, but the freshmen who are starting are going to have to step up,” Novak said. “Monmouth, Lisbon and Oak Hill are going to be tough. We have the people to be competitive, we are just not deep with upperclassmen. The four juniors we have have all stepped up quite a bit compared to last year. They’ve gotten bigger and stronger, hitting the ball better. On the freshmen side, Braden Branagan is a great catcher, can play the field and has got a solid bat, and so that’s been a pleasant surprise.”

NEW PHOENIX COACH ACCLIMATING

Spruce Mountain started its first season under head coach Jacob Bessey well with a 12-2 victory over Boothbay/Wiscasset. 

The Phoenix then held tough against Hall-Dale, losing 3-1. In game three, they lost 14-3 to Madison. 

Advertisement

“We’ve had our struggles,” Bessey said. “Obviously, the last game is still fresh in my mind; easily our worst game, with eight errors. We hung on with Hall-Dale, and we expect them to be one of the best teams in the league, so that gave us confidence. We’ve been hitting the ball really well, lots of hard hits, and we’ve been playing well until yesterday (against Madison). I’ve been moving guys to new spots and to be more flexible with defensive alignments. It didn’t work, we had a lot of errors from guys in different spots, and that’s on me.”

Bessey is still getting acclimated to the team and has been adjusting lineups every game, trying to find the best combination while also putting players in “places they can thrive.” 

The new head coach said a positive part of his first season is that he doesn’t have any preconceived biases about any players because he wasn’t an assistant last year and therefore is starting fresh with everyone. Another positive is the assistance of the upperclassmen. 

“Something that’s been going really smoothly is that a lot of the seniors and the juniors have been helping me out,” Bessey said. “We don’t have any volunteers or assistants. The leaders, when I am working with the hitters or outfielders, and the infielders need to go work on flips or feeds to second, I am able to just send them off. Whenever I am looking over, they’re doing what they need to.”

Bessey adds that a couple of bright spots early this season have been freshmen Max Labonte and Eli Moffett.

“They eat and breathe baseball and are going to be very good,” Bessey said.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.