1. Kennebunk: The Rams return nine starters from a team that went 6-10 in the SMAA last season. This year Kennebunk has returned to the Western Maine Conference but will play in the Class A tournament. Along with pitcher/shortstop Nick Emmons, the Rams have junior catcher Kip Richard, senior outfielder Caleb Burpee and junior pitcher Ben Lary. Coach Brian Dill feels the pitching and defense will be solid. With some proven hitters, the team should be able to score runs.
2. Westbrook: The Blue Blazes captured the Class A state title last season. Even though Westbrook graduated its top two pitchers, the team returns enough arms to contend again. Ethan Nash and Andrew St. Clair are the top two pitchers. Nash had a 3-1 record and 2.30 ERA. St. Clair only pitched 32/3 innings last season but has impressed Coach Greg Souza in the preseason. Catcher Kyle Heath and shortstop Collin Joyce were mainstays on last year’s team. Outfielders Austin Blake and Caleb Kent are keys.
3. Greely: The Rangers have the talent to contend for a regional title. The team is stocked with pitchers and hitters, led by Bailey Train, who has a scholarship to play at Massachusetts. Connor Russell and Will Bryant add to the pitching depth. The left-handed Russell had a 6-0 record. Greely started the preseason looking to fill the catcher, shortstop, center and left-field positions. Greely ran into hot teams in losing to Cape Elizabeth and York in the last two postseasons.
4. Marshwood: The Hawks have a strong nucleus back from a team that went 14-2 in the regular season and lost to Westbrook in the playoffs. The team is led by juniors Zach Quintal and Noah McDaniel. Another junior, first baseman Jake Lebel, was clutch with a two-strike count late in the season. Luke Stankovich, a right-hander, will be in the rotation. The Hawks have excellent speed. They should hit and play defense, but pitching depth could be a question mark. “The pitching will come from our infielders,” said Coach Eric Fernandes.
5. Falmouth: The Yachtsmen look to be one of the top teams in the Western Maine Conference but as a Class A team, will play against the top SMAA teams in the tournament. Falmouth, which lost in the regional final last season, could be a factor when the postseason rolls around. The team has players who complement Will D’Agostino and Connor Aube. Addison Foltmer, a senior, has been a starting pitcher since his sophomore season. He was 2-1 last season. Jesse Melchiskey will pitch and play first. Ryan Mucci is another pitcher in the rotation. Connor MacDowell will start his second season as the catcher.
6. Cheverus: The Stags have a veteran team with six senior starters. Mitchell Powers has the potential to be one of the top pitchers in the SMAA. He also is a top hitter who batted .370 a year ago. Chris Tinsman is a veteran player who has been the catcher but could also see time at first base. Felix del Vecchio is a veteran shortstop. The question mark is pitching depth. After Powers the team will turn to Brad Carney, Derek Hammond, Alex Jacobs, Peter Dutton and Jensen LaPoint.
7. Scarborough: The Red Storm lost 15 seniors through graduation but have their best player back in pitcher Ben Greenberg. He was the Maine Sunday Telegram’s Player of the Year last year. With Greenberg pitching, the Red Storm can beat any team. Greenberg is also one of the top hitters in the state. But the Red Storm will need others to step up. Nate Wessel is a pitcher/outfielder and the third brother to play for Scarborough. Matt Hartl and Zach Carriero will look to complement Greenberg on the mound.
8. South Portland: The Red Riots are deep in pitching but the hitting will need to develop. That’s the biggest question as the team hopes to improve upon last season’s 6-10 record. Robert Graff is the team’s top pitcher and devoid of the arm soreness that curtailed his season a year ago. The Riots also have their entire infield back. They started the preseason looking to fill open spots in center and catcher. Jon Vickers is a three-year starter at second base. “If we can score some runs, I feel we should be pretty good. We have more depth in pitching then I’ve had here,” said Coach Mike Owens.
9. York: The Wildcats captured the Class B state title last season and could be back contending because they still have a strong core of players. They have a top battery in pitcher Danny Bock and catcher Cole Merritt. Other veterans are Adam Legg at third base and Will Burke in left. The team knows it has a proven winner in Bock. The success of the season could be how the younger pitchers develop. “With the exception of Danny, it’s going to be pitching by committee,” said Coach Chuck Chadbourne. “We have some good young talent.”
10. Oceanside: The team graduated only two starters and have 11 players returning who saw considerable action. One of those is sophomore Nick Mazurek, a pitcher/third baseman. He has a good fastball that helped him to a 4-0 record last season. Mazurek batted .300 last season. J.T. Tobin is one of the top catchers in Class B of the KVAC. Ryan Allender will be counted on to repeat last season on the mound when he went 6-2. He uses a strong breaking ball to get batters out. The team should be strong on defense.
– Tom Chard