Mitchell Powers didn't pitch much for Cheverus High this spring because of an elbow injury.
But rest, warm weather and a strong mental outlook have made all the difference for Powers, who is one of the top thee starters for First Title, the American Legion baseball state champion.
Powers has been one of the many contributors for First Title, comprised of Cheverus players.
It will need everyone chipping in to succeed in the Northeast Regional that starts today at The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach.
First Title (20-8) will play Woonsocket, R.I., at 4:30 p.m.
There are eight teams, including Fayette-Staples of Saco, in the double-elimination tournament. Fayette-Staples plays Milford, Conn., in the last game of opening day. The tournament will end Monday, pending rainouts.
Players like Drew Ferrick and Felix del Vecchio didn't start for Cheverus but have become key components for First Title.
Also, Nic Lops returned to play with his former teammates after a season with St. Joseph's College this spring. Peter Potthoff, who graduated from Cheverus in 2011, didn't play at the University of Tampa but came back for one last summer of baseball.
The key for any team in a long tournament is pitching: First Title has Louie DiStasio, Harry Ridge and Powers.
Powers, who is expected to start the opener because he has the most rest, last pitched Friday in the state tournament, going eight innings and throwing 140 pitches in a 9-4 victory against Windham.
Giving Powers the start allows DiStasio another day of rest. DiStasio, Ridge and Powers all have five wins this summer. Brady Murray and Nate Smith are relievers who could be key in a long tourney.
Pitching in an AAU game last fall, Powers felt a pop in his arm. He had surgery to insert a screw in his right elbow. Powers didn't pitch early this spring but as the season progressed, saw a few innings for Cheverus.
"The velocity is coming back with the fastball," said Powers. "The same with the curve. My arm is about 90 percent back. I feel good and I'm ready to go. Hopefully it will turn out well."
Powers is experienced in regional tourney play. He played for Portland Little League North, then Portland Babe Ruth in regional tournaments. Along with pitching, Powers said defense has been a key.
"Our pitching will help but it's not going to carry us. Our defense is what got us here," he said.
First Title went 4-1 in the state tournament. In its championship-clinching 5-4 victory Monday against the Pastime Club of Lewiston, Ridge pitched the final three innings.
DiStasio pitched the first six innings Sunday before the game was stopped because of rain, then finished the next day.
Counting the Zone 4 tournament, First Title had played 10 games in 15 days.
Coach Mac McKew gave his team Tuesday and Wednesday off.
"We took a breather. I don't think they'll forget how to swing a bat," said McKew.
On Wednesday, the teams registered at The Ballpark, had a lobster bake and a home-run derby contest. Each team was allowed one hitter, getting 10 pitches, in the home-run derby. DiStasio was First Title's representative.
First Title has a .314 team batting average this summer. Tyler Flaherty and Lops lead the team at .400. Ridge is hitting .398 and DiStasio is at .391. Ferrick, who drove home the winning run in the state championship game with a ninth-inning sacrifice fly, is hitting .325.
Flaherty also has picked up his play from high school to Legion ball.
Fayette-Staples, made up of Thornton Academy players, is in the tournament for the second straight year as the host team. It had two close games last year, losing in extra innings to Rhode Island and Vermont.
The team had six players return from a year ago.
Right-hander Jeff Gelinas (6-2) will pitch the opener for Fayette-Staples. Jack Kenney and Steve Harmon are the other starting pitchers.
Harmon leads the team with a .450 batting average, followed by Gelinas and Kenney.
Knowing it would be in the Northeast Regional again, Fayette-Staples played two out-of-state teams, Auburn, Mass., and Cumberland, R.I., during the season to get ready for the tournament.
Fayette-Staples played three games and lost them all, but Coach Ray Petit said it was a good experience.
"It's always nice to play out-of-state teams to see where you stand," he said. "There are no returning teams from last year. The only team we know is First Title because we play them in high school."
Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: