They were the kings of the East/West Conference last season and nearly the kings of Class D South, and while Richmond coach Ryan Gardner isn’t making any promises regarding his Bobcats, he knows the pieces are in place for another successful spring.

“The nucleus is still there,” he said.

It’s been a good one. It includes Zach Small and Matt Rines, who are the team’s top two pitchers and are also weapons at the top of the lineup. After those two, however, the threats keep coming with catcher Trystin Shea, left fielder Nate Kendrick, first baseman Danny Stewart and second baseman Ben Gardner, who impressed in his freshman season.

“They put the ball in play. We didn’t strike out a lot last year,” said Coach Gardner, whose team fell to Searsport in the D South final. “We’re very patient. We make pitchers work, which is a really good thing with pitch counts. We forced a lot of teams to change what they’re willing to do, pitching-wise, by the kids taking a lot of pitches and looking for their pitch to hit.”

Richmond should be good on the mound as well. The team will miss Brendan Emmons, but Small and Rines have help within the staff from sophomores Kyle Tilton and Damien Little (a Lisbon transfer) and freshman Andrew Vachon.

“To start out, we’re ahead of the game, pitching-wise,” Coach Gardner said.

Temple Academy showed great improvement last season, jumping from two to six wins and just missing the playoffs. After losing just one senior to graduation, the Bereans hope to take the next step in the program’s development and reach the postseason.

“This year we have a much deeper bench, which is good for raising up newer less experienced players,” coach Craig Riportella said.

Temple returns four seniors who started last season: Micah Riportella (catcher, shortstop, pitcher), Sawyer Deroche (pitcher, shortstop, catcher), Eli Austin (center field, first base), and Jesse Clement (first base).

Junior Nathaniel Wiles, sophomore Nathan Riportella, and freshmen Nick Blaisdell and Zach Wiles also bring back varsity experience. Continued defensive improvement will be a key to Temple’s progress, Coach Riportella said.

Valley won just two games last season, but reached the regional quarterfinals. As with the case with many Class D teams, managing a limited pitching staff in the face of the pitch count rules is a challenge for the Cavaliers.

“We have no doubleheaders on the schedule, but we have some back-to-back days,” coach Scott Laweryson said.

Senior Josh Brown looks to be the top pitcher for the Cavaliers, with Joey Thomas and Dillon Beane slotting behind Brown in the rotation. Hunter Moore and CJ Morgan, both sophomores, also return to Valley’s lineup. The Cavs will be young. Five freshmen will be asked to contribute immediately.

Rangeley won nine games in each of the last two seasons. Errors came in bunches for the Lakers last season, and defense will need to improve for the team to be a contender in Class D South. Kyle LaRochelle and Bo Beaulieu are among the Lakers top returning players.

Forest Hills will look to a trio of seniors — Carson Veilleux, Caleb Lacasse and Jack Hoyt for experience. Without any depth, the Tigers will need three eighth graders to mature quickly on the varsity baseball stage.

MAISAD League

Kents Hill had a strong season last year, going 9-3 in the Maine Association of Independent Schools Athletic Directors league and qualifying for the New England Small School Baseball Tournament, and coach Mike Hannon likes his team’s chances of making it back.

“This team has high expectations for this season with our pitching and (after) experiencing a deep run into the playoffs last year,” he said. “This team knows what it takes to reach the level of New England prep school playoffs and make an impact.”

The team has plenty of pitching, led by Gavin Bates, a Dayton University commit, while Gordon Beckwith, Mitchell Tarrio and Samuel Jalbert are right behind him. Jordan MacDonald is a dangerous plate presence in the middle of a lineup Hannon said is deeper than last year’s.

“This team is confident but not cocky,” Hannon said. “They know they are what it takes to have a successful season but they also know that we have not proven anything yet.”