There appears to be no clear-cut favorite in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B division this year, but there are certainly some central Maine teams among the league’s contenders.

Nokomis got hot late last season and made a run to the Class B North semifinals from the No. 10 seed. With most of the lineup back, the Warriors hope to carry that success into 2017.

“As long as we stay healthy, we can compete,” Nokomis coach Jared Foster said.

Nokomis has two-time all-conference selection Zach Hartsgrove back behind the plate and in the middle of the lineup. Josh Perry returns as the No. 1 pitcher and will be joined by Cody Rice at the top of the Warriors’ rotation. Rice also will catch some when Hartsgrove pitches, Foster said.

Josh Smestad is a three-year starter at shortstop for Nokomis and Brad Allen returns to the cleanup spot and first base.

Erskine has its eye on the next step after going 14-4 and reaching the Class B North semis, and it could have the pieces to get there. It starts with the battery, which should be one of the KVAC’s best. Rifle-armed senior Nick Turcotte is back behind the plate, where he threw out over 60 percent of attempted base stealers last season. He’ll be catching a rotation led by Nate Howard, who’ll pitch next spring at UMass-Dartmouth, and junior Noah Bonsant.


“That’s our strength,” coach Lars Jonassen said. “We’ve got a great 1-2 punch and an outstanding catcher.”

Experience dots other key places in the lineup and in the field for the Eagles. A key piece will be senior Cody Taylor, who is back in right field after batting .500 a season ago.

“We need to play to our ability and not worry about who we’re playing,” Jonassen said. “If we get that sort of consistency, this team could be special.”

Waterville won 12 games last season, and with six starters back the Purple Panthers feel they can contend. The key, coach Dennis Martin said, is finding pitching depth.

“To be a good team this year, we’re going to need at least five guys who can throw,” Martin said.

Waterville returns veterans across the lineup. All-conference centerfielder Andrew Roderigue is back, as is Jackson Aldrich at first base. The Panthers found their stride last season when Justin Wentworth was inserted at catcher, and he’s back with a year of experience behind the plate. Cody Pellerin (shortstop) and Chay Phelps (second base, outfield) are other important returning players.


Sophomores David Barre, Kody Vallee and Cam Denis could see a lot of time on the mound, as Martin builds a pitching staff.

Maranacook lost its defense up the middle, but it’s clear to see where the road back to the Class B playoffs starts for the Black Bears. Junior Dan Garand returns after an injury-plagued sophomore season, and will lead a strong 1-2 punch along with senior Chris Florek atop the rotation.

“We’ve got a good staff,” said coach Eric Brown, who also has experienced pitching back with juniors Avery and Jared Beckwith. “If the pitching comes through and we’re able to get maybe a little creative on the offensive side, definitely, I think we have the potential to get back to the playoffs.”

Things are murkier at the plate. Senior second baseman Max McQuillen brings a potent bat, but after that, the lineup is in flux.

“We don’t have any guys that are really going to give us the long ball, I don’t think,” Brown said.

Winslow was hit hard by graduation and the loss of two returning starters to other sports. With just 14 players in the program, the Black Raiders face a numbers crunch they’ve rarely seen.


“Baseball’s kind of become the third sport for every kid,” coach Aaron Wolfe said.

Ryan Gagnon is the top returning pitcher at Winslow. Patrick Hopkins is recovering from a shoulder injury, but will be a big bat in the middle of the lineup. Wolfe said early in the season, he’ll mix and match lineups and positions as he finds the right spots for a number of young players.

“I told all the kids, ‘The more places you’re comfortable, the more we can use you,'” Wolfe said.

Gardiner lost 10 seniors from a team that reached the B North prelims, but the good news is that while those seniors were up, the next wave of players — a group led by junior outfielder Logan Porter — were being properly prepared.

“We do a lot of stuff in the program to make sure that the transitions are smooth,” coach Russ Beckwith said. “A lot of our newcomers are juniors. … They might not have seen a lot of varsity pitching, but we have had a lot of those guys play with us during the summer in Legion.”

Among the returners, senior Sam Jermyn projects as the No. 1 pitcher, while junior catcher Kolton Brochu and senior shortstop Devon Maschino lead the Gardiner defense.

Dale Hustus takes over as coach at Mount View. Led by Kevin Richards and Colby Furrow, the Mustangs have seniors, Hustus says, who can help make a playoff run. Maine Central Institute is young, but coach Eric Day says the Huskies have the talent to contend for a playoff spot. Second team all-KVAC shortstop Pedro Matos is back for MCI, along with senior pitcher-centerfielder Clark Morrison.

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