Gorham sophomore Wyatt Nadeau warms up at the start of practice on Tuesday. The 6-foot-6 right-hander has committed to Vanderbilt University. He pitched sparingly as a freshman but impressed at the end of the season, and now is poised for a significant role in the Rams’ rotation.  Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Being a hitter in Class A South this season will mean having to go against South Portland senior Andrew Heffernan, who has committed to play NCAA Division I baseball at Merrimack College.

And Thornton Academy senior Josh Kopetski, who’s headed to the University of Rhode Island. And Gorham sophomore Wyatt Nadeau, a Vanderbilt University commit.

The list goes on. Cheverus junior Brian Connolly is bound for Wake Forest, where he’ll play shortstop. Kennebunk’s Quinn MacDonald will pitch next year at Division II Saint Anselm College.

Class A South has become a pitchers’ league in recent seasons. And colleges on the national stage are taking notice.

“You’ve got commits from all over the place,” said Thornton Academy Coach Jason Lariviere. “It’s fun to watch. It’s not always fun to go against. It’s just the nature of the league right now.”

Heffernan has noticed the trend as well.


“The pitchers are definitely great this year,” he said. “There was a little while where I feel like some Maine pitchers were getting overlooked, but there are some guys that really kind of set the bar and paved the way for us. It’s progressing as we go, and it’s awesome to see.”

This isn’t the first year that Class A South pitchers are showing up on the national radar. Thornton’s Cody Bowker (Georgetown), Windham’s Brady Afthim (Connecticut) and South Portland’s Hunter Owen (Vanderbilt) are among pitchers in the last three years who landed offers from out-of-state Division I schools. So did Zach Johnston (Wake Forest) from Class B Greely. Closer to home, Noah Lewis  (South Portland) and Blaine Cockburn (Freeport) are pitching for the University of Maine.

The college-recruiting pipeline, however, is as strong now as its ever been. Pitchers are getting offers and more are coming, thanks to more availability than ever of indoor facilities and ways for pitchers to hone their skills in the offseason.

“I think Maine’s definitely producing some national talent,” said South Portland Coach Mike Owens. “We didn’t have the year-round stuff that a lot of the southern states have. Now, with The Edge (Academy in Portland) and some of the indoor places that are around, I think kids have been able to play more.”

Thornton Academy senior Josh Kopetski will pitch for the University of Rhode Island next season. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Players and pitchers have also been able to get in front of national coaches more often.

“The key is travel ball and getting in front of coaches, even going to college campuses and going to the showcases they provide for players,” Kopetski said. “And also PBR (Prep Baseball Report), Perfect Game, those rankings, all the coaches look at that. You want to be part of every opportunity you can.”


Lariviere said colleges sometimes see more potential with Maine pitchers, compared to pitchers farther south who have thrown more because of milder weather.

“The southern guys, they’re throwing that (high velocity) probably a little bit earlier than guys up here,” he said, “but they get a lot of innings on their arm. You get someone with a lot of potential, size and not many innings on the arm, I feel like that’s more appealing and (schools are) starting to take notice.”

Among the pitchers with Division I interest is Heffernan, a right-hander who has helped South Portland to the last two Class A South finals and who throws 85 to 86 mph, along with a slider and curveball.

“He grew up as a crafty pitcher,” Owens said. “Now he has the power as well. … He learned how to do all the stuff he needed to because he couldn’t just sit and blow by everybody. Now he can.”

South Portland pitcher Andrew Heffernan has helped the Red Riots advance to the last two Class A South finals. His fastball reaches 85-86 mph, and he throws a slider and curveball. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Kopetski is a lefty whose fastball sits 86-88 and can touch 90 mph, but whose arsenal goes beyond the heater.

“He’s really developed a good changeup and a good slider,” Lariviere said. “He’s dynamic, his ball moves a lot, and he has a little bit of a different delivery. It makes it difficult to pick it up.”


A newer college recruit in Class A South is Gorham’s Nadeau, a 6-foot-6 right-hander who dials his fastball to 90 mph and complements it with a slider and changeup that have become quality pitches. He pitched sparingly as a freshman but impressed at the end of the season, and now is poised for a significant role in the Rams’ rotation.

“He’s pretty polished,” said Gorham Coach Chuck Nadeau, Wyatt’s father. “He’s a power pitcher, for sure, but I think what some of the schools that looked at him really liked was that, for his age, he had developed a pretty good three-pitch mix. His slider is a college slider.”

The top talent is improved, and the pool of quality arms has also broadened. Class A South coaches remember a time when teams had their ace, and then there was a drop off to their second and third pitchers. Now, that isn’t always the case.

“You may be going up against somebody’s No. 2, but they could be anybody’s No. 1,” said Kennebunk Coach Andrew Coulombe. “Everybody’s got a No. 1, and I think a lot of (teams) have a legitimate No. 2 and even a legitimate No. 3. That’s the piece that I think has been building.

“There are no gimmies anymore.”

Examples abound. Thornton Academy, the defending Class A champion, has a deep rotation with Kopetski, Jack Nussbaum and Josh Penney. Scarborough has three strong pitchers in Erik Swenson, Zak Sanders and Harrison Griffiths. Kennebunk has Isaac Jensen and Drew Sliwkowski behind MacDonald and his mid-80s heat. In addition to Nadeau, Gorham has standout sophomores Casey Skolfield and Jack Karlonas.


Cheverus, hampered by injuries last year, has a strong rotation in Connolly, Matt Connor (headed to Division II Assumption College) and Jacob Lucier. Sanford junior Ben Gill throws in the 80s and could generate buzz by season’s end. And there are more.

“There must be seven, eight or nine teams that are really strong, and that’s because of all the depth on the pitching staffs,” said Cheverus Coach Tony DiBiase. “It’s been an ongoing thing for at least five years, where all the top five or six teams have had at least one or two good pitchers. I’m talking about top-of-the-line pitchers.”

And the pitchers themselves are ready to duel.

“I’d rather have a stronger pitcher competing against me than a weaker pitcher,” Kopetski said. “I don’t lose sight of the game, and I stay locked in.”

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