1. Scarborough: Defending Class A champs return the SMAA’s best pitcher in senior left-hander Alyssa Williamson (14-0 in 2013) and arguably the best catcher in Megan Murrell. Drexel-bound Williamson is also a highly productive hitter who hasn’t struck out in two seasons. As usual, Coach Tom Griffin has pitching depth, with junior Sophia Burnham, and freshmen Lilly Volk and Abbie Murrell. Senior Brenna Kent returns to first base but the rest of the infield will be young, with sophomores Chloe Gorey (short) and Maggie Murphy on the left side.
2. Thornton Academy: Like Scarborough, the Golden Trojans return two top-line stars and a strong supporting cast. Junior Bailey Tremblay is a three-year starting pitcher. Her pitching, fielding and strong bat made her an all-SMAA pick as a sophomore. Senior Erin Brayden hit over .600 with power and no strikeouts. Seniors Taylor Lux (2B) and Morgan Dube (CF), and junior Brooke Cross have started since their freshman seasons for Coach John Provost. Lux or Cross could end up at shortstop.
3. Cape Elizabeth: The Capers scored 9.9 runs per game in 2013, going 15-1 in the regular season before being upset by Gray-New Gloucester 2-1 in a Western Class B semifinal. They figure to be potent again. Coach Joe Henrikson returns 10 players who hit .300 or better, led by junior shortstop Ashley Tinsman and all-conference left fielder Emma O’Rourke, who will likely shift to third base. Senior pitchers Katie Rabasca and Anna Goldstein will need to continue to throw strikes and expect a revamped defense to do the job.
4. Noble: The Knights finished fifth a year ago in the SMAA and are looking to move up behind the experienced trio of senior pitcher Amber Kelly (11-2, 1.96 ERA), junior first baseman Melodie Bailey (4 HRs, team-high 21 RBI) and junior center fielder Katie Taylor (22 runs). Kelly, who helps herself with her fielding, has won at least 10 games the three previous seasons and enters the year with 33 career wins.
5. Greely: Coach Jessica Gomez is impressed by her team’s all-around abilities. The 2013 Western Class B champ will miss graduated pitcher Dani Cimino, but the Rangers should remain a top contender. Junior Miranda Moore steps into the No. 1 pitching role. Also pitching will be Kayley Cimino (Dani’s sister), part of a strong freshman class. Senior captains and corner infielders Mykaela Twitchell (first) and Elyse Dinan (third) will lead what figures to be a strong offense.
6. South Portland: Gone are SMAA Player of the Year shortstop Danica Gleason and overpowering pitcher Erin Bogdanovich, but Coach Ralph Aceto expects the 2010 and 2012 Western Class A champ to be back in the hunt. Strong-hitting senior Olivia Indorf will handle most of the pitching after getting several starts a year ago. Laurine German is a dynamic offensive threat with a good middle-infield glove. The team will need to develop a deeper batting lineup than the 2013 version that was stopped in the Western A semifinals.
7. Bonny Eagle: The Scots were on the rise last season, finishing 10-5-1, and return five starters, including four-year pitcher Allison Pike and senior Rebecca Howell, who hit .400 as a catcher. Howell will move to first base. Second-year coach Suzanne Rondeau is looking to tighten the defense by moving sophomore Breanna Lifland at short. Senior second baseman Kelsey Grady is the lone returner to the infield.
8. Fryeburg Academy: First-year coach Stephen Woodcock says he’s not familiar yet with Western Class B but knows he has one of the state’s elite pitchers. Senior Sarah Harriman posted a 0.72 ERA with 150 strikeouts last year. Harriman is coming off shoulder surgery. Seniors Sydney Charles (short) and Keily Locke (first) are the other key returners for the Raiders, who must replace all-league catcher Carla Tripp, their whole outfield and half the infield.
9. Oceanside: The defending Class B champs graduated ace Rachel Frye and power-hitting first baseman Kennadi Grover, but Coach Rusty Worcester believes his squad can remain among Eastern Class B’s top teams. Having all-conference players like senior third baseman Brooke Dugan and sophomore catcher Ari Curtis helps. Junior pitcher Paige Tyler got meaningful experience a year ago, and sophomores Kalyn Grover and Brianna Dugan, and freshman Alexis Mazurek appear ready.
10. Gray-New Gloucester: The Patriots flew a bit under the radar, finishing sixth in Western Class B before now-senior pitcher Stephanie Greaton won three playoff games, including shutting down powerful Cape Elizabeth and nearly stopping Greely. Her junior catcher, Zoe Adams, is also back, giving Coach Amanda Harmon one of the WMC’s best batteries. Junior Maria Valente is an impact player at third base.
– Steve Craig