With new pitch counts in place this season, the balance of power across the conferences likely could shift, with depth on the mound suddenly more important than top-tier talent.
Not that that matters much to Monmouth and coach Eric Palleschi. The Mustangs had an excellent season last year, and even with the new rules, Palleschi doesn’t see his team slowing down too much.
“With these pitch count limits, everybody’s a pitcher,” he said. “But we’ve always had that philosophy. We’ve always relied on four guys, five guys to throw. And it works.”
It certainly did last year, when Monmouth went 17-1 en route to the C South semifinals, and though three of the four Mustangs to compile over 30 innings on the mound graduated, Palleschi has enough confidence in his pitching staff to include his team among the Class C and Mountain Valley Conference favorites, a group that also includes Lisbon, Winthrop and Bridgeway — a Madison and Carrabec co-operative.
“I think if people are able to do the jobs that we put them in, we’ll be right there again,” he said. “I don’t see any reason why this team can’t get back to the same place, or go further.”
The biggest reason for Palleschi’s confidence is Hunter Richardson, who is the lone pitcher back but who is an ideal choice to get the ball in Monmouth’s biggest games. “He’s a top-of-the-rotation guy,” Palleschi said of the senior.
Avery Amero and Avery Pomerleau will pick up the slack in the rotation, and they’ll be pitching with what projects to be a strong defense behind them. Senior Travis Hartford is a three-year starter at first base, Richardson and Mat Foulke are the same at shortstop and second base, respectively, and Amero will likely play extensively at third base with sophomore Trevor Flanagan taking over when Amero pitches. Pomerleau, junior Devin Poisson, junior Nick Dovinsky and freshman Gabe Martin will be in the mix for starting outfield spots, and sophomore Corey Armstrong will take over behind the plate.
Last season, both Madison and Carrabec baseball teams made the Class C South playoffs. Due to declining participation at both schools, the teams merged this season, and will be known as the Bridgeway Bandits. Bridgeway will compete in the MVC but also for a spot in the B South playoffs because of the combined enrollment of the schools.
Longtime Madison coach Scott Franzose will guide the Bandits.
“We’re all Bandits now,” Franzose said.
Bridgeway has a pair of strong pitchers in Dustin Crawford and Ryan Emery. Those seniors, along with Jordan Hadley and Aaron Morgan, give the Bandits a quartet of leaders.
“We have great upperclass experience. I don’t know if I see a lot of weaknesses,” Franzose said.
Winthrop was a rare no-show in the Class C playoffs last season, but with the entire roster back, coach Mark Fortin likes his team’s chances of making its way back.
“These boys have been playing ball for a while, playing together for a while,” he said. “They’ve seen varsity pitching for two or three years. That’ll come into play.”
Seniors Antonio Meucci and Jacob Hickey project as the top pitchers, while fellow seniors Bennett Brooks, a pitcher, third baseman and shortstop, and Matt Ingram, a catcher and pitcher, will hit at the top of the lineup. Eight starters return for the Ramblers, and Fortin has seen plenty of improvement in junior second baseman Greg Fay, junior catcher Carson Camick and sophomore center fielder Jackson Ladd after a summer of Babe Ruth baseball.
“We feel like we have a couple of guys that are going to be tough to beat this year, and we feel like we can compete against those aces from the other clubs,” Fortin said.
Hall-Dale has a talented core back after reaching the C South quarterfinals, and has some experience despite having no seniors on the roster. Juniors Dean Jackman and Cole Lockhart are the leaders among the returners, and will be the team’s top two pitchers. Lockhart will also lead the offense from the cleanup spot, while sophomores Austin Stebbins (an MVC honorable mention as a freshman) and Alec Byron and freshman Akira Warren, a talented catcher from Japan, will also bat high up in what could be a solid Bulldogs lineup.
“Right now, I expect that we’re going to be in some really close ballgames,” coach Bob Sinclair said. “I’m confident that we’re going to continue to get better throughout the season and be a playoff team and be peaking at the right time.”
Oak Hill has a new coach in Chad Stowell, a former pitcher at Thomas College, and the Raiders will try to rebound from a 5-11, playoff-less season. Five seniors back in starting spots will help in that endeavor, with Matt Clifford and Kaleb Morissette leading the rotation and Brent Mulherin (outfield), Austin Noble (third base) and Adam Mooney (catcher/first base) also in the mix.
“We have guys who are skilled enough to compete in our conference, and I think the next step is competing for a playoff spot,” Stowell said. “As long as we’re consistently executing, I think we could be in a pretty good spot.”
Mt. Abram is rebuilding after an 0-16 2016 season. While many schools are searching for pitching depth in reaction to the new pitch count limits, the Roadrunners feel they have depth on the mound. Fourteen of the 19 players in the program can pitch, coach Frank Orcutt said.
“We are very fortunate in that we have four middle schools that send to our high school, and they all have pitchers,” Orcutt said.
Even with pitching, Orcutt said success will be measured in small steps. Seniors Sean Allen and John May will pitch and lead the team, along with senior outfielder-pitcher Dan Luce.