1. Falmouth: The defending Class A South champs are favored to repeat. The Yachtsmen return all of their pitchers and several of the best players in southern Maine. Start with the pitching, where lefties Cam Guarino (10-0, 0.52 ERA) and Reece Armitage (7-1, 0.78) and right-hander Max Fortier (2-0, 0.42) return. Robbie Armitage (.464 batting average) is back at shortstop, with Colin Coyne at second and junior Garrett Aube at catcher. The Yachtsmen are fueled by last year’s loss in the state title game – their only loss of the season. “It left a sour taste in the kids’ mouths,” said Coach Kevin Winship. “They’re fired up to get back to where we were last year.”
2. Cheverus: The Stags, who lost in the preliminary round last year, have the pitching depth to go deep into the playoffs. Coach Mac McKew feels he has “eight different guys” that he can put on the mound and be effective, and there aren’t many teams who can match that. The top two will likely be seniors Jared Brooks, who is Stonehill College-bound, and Jack Casale, who had a 1.52 ERA and 2-2 record last year. Brooks hit .341 and Casale hit .396. Logan McCarthy is a four-year starter at catcher with a good bat (.283. 13 RBI), and senior Griffin Watson is a solid defensive shortstop and leadoff batter (.286). “We’re looking forward to getting back and seeing how far we can take it,” said McKew.
3. South Portland: The Red Riots have been to the last two regional championship games and could be right there again in Class A South, even though they graduated 12 seniors from a 16-3 team. Why? Well, they return senior outfielder Sam Troiano, last year’s SMAA most valuable player who hit .439, scored a league-high 20 runs and went 3-1 with a 2.30 ERA on the mound. Junior Riley Hasson, a second-team all-SMAA outfielder, will move to shortstop. There’s also power-hitting third baseman/pitcher Zach Johnson (moving in from right field) and sophomore catcher Caden Horton, who will hit in the middle of the order. The Riots also had success in American Legion and Junior League play last summer.
4. Cape Elizabeth: The Capers have finished first in the regular season in Class B South the past two seasons, advancing to the regional final both years. Coach Andrew Wood believes his team can play at the same level again despite graduating five senior starters. Cape returns junior catcher Brendan Tinsman (3 HRs each of the past two seasons), who has verbally committed to Wake Forest. Cape also brings back two experienced senior starters in Marshall Peterson (46 innings, 4 BB, 40 K) and Patrick Macdonald. Finn Bowe is an above-average defensive shortstop, and Brett MacAlister, who missed last season with an injury, is back as a power-hitting senior outfielder.
5. Deering: The Rams are another team loaded with pitching. “Pretty much all the innings from last year are coming back,” said Coach Josh Stowell. That’s important in Year 1 of the pitch count. The top three will be seniors Colby Dame (an SMAA honorable mention pick), James Sinclair and Riley Bartell. Juniors Jack Lynch (catcher/infield) and Luc Harrison (outfield) will contribute, as will sophomore Luke Hill, who can play several positions. Hill and lefty Joe Pelletier will add to the pitching depth.
6. Thornton Academy: The Trojans, with Greg Paradis back as the head coach for this season only, could be a handful. They have two Division I prospects – UMaine-bound first baseman Evan Balzano (.426, 15 RBI) and Wagner-bound catcher Brandon Hall (.380, all-SMAA defensive catcher) – to pace a potentially strong hitting team. Their entire infield returns, with senior Chase Wescott at second, sophomore Luke Chessie (SMAA honorable mention) at shortstop and junior Brogan Searle-Belanger (.417) at third.
7. Greely: On paper, the Rangers have some holes to fill with the graduation of six regulars. But the other Western Maine Conference Class B and C coaches aren’t expecting a significant drop-off. “They have about six varsity lineups and I’m only slightly exaggerating,” said Wells Coach Todd Day. Plus, Greely returns hard-throwing Ryan Twitchell, who was 6-0 with two saves and struck out 1.5 batters per inning. He’ll be throwing to three-year starter Dylan Fried behind the plate. Luke Miller also returns and can play in the infield or outfield.
8. York: The Wildcats are another team with an above-average No. 1 starter in 6-foot-6 Trevor LaBonte, a power pitcher who has developed into a good first baseman. York also returns all-conference players in junior third baseman Timmy MacDonald and four-year starting center fielder Chris Nielson. How far the team goes could be determined by the development of Andrew Rodrigues as the No. 2 starter and first-year catcher Dawson Gundlah. Pete Bouchard is another experienced hitter who can play multiple positions.
9. Oceanside: The Mariners (13-5 in Class B North last season) won’t have a top-end ace after the graduation of Nick Mazurek, who is playing at Southern New Hampshire University. But they do have three experienced pitchers in juniors Jack Freeman, Logan Sheridan and Michael Dougherty and seven players who saw significant action last season. Coach Don Shields has high expectations for junior Titus Kaewthong, who will take over behind the plate and bat third. Michael Norton Jr., brings good speed and athleticism to center field.
10. Old Orchard Beach: The Seagulls (8-9) could be a serious threat in Class C. Coach Tom Lachance said it’s the most talented top 15 players he’s had. Seniors Thomas Fregeau in center and Evan O’Donnell behind the plate are four-years starters. Classmates Dylan Creswell (2B/P), Jonathan Gillis (LF), and Joey McCullum (SS) are proven players. Junior Matt Hurley is a strong, left-handed pitcher who can also hit and should lead a deep pitching staff.
— Mike Lowe and Steve Craig