The Richmond baseball team won it all in June, then said goodbye to its top two hitters and pitchers, including Zach Small, who only threw a no-hitter to bring the Bobcats their first title since 2010.

So clearly, it’s rebuilding time in the East/West Conference and Class D South, right? Not so fast. Bobcats coach Ryan Gardner isn’t conceding anything just yet.

I think it’s a three-horse race, with Searsport, Buckfield and Richmond,” Gardner said. “I think it’s going to be the older teams.”

Those teams have combined for six of the last seven regional crowns, and they should be the teams to beat again. Searsport returns its top pitcher. Buckfield has good numbers and athletes.

Richmond, meanwhile, has a small roster — only 14 players — but a good one, as most of the kids on Gardner’s roster are experienced ballplayers. There’s work to do — Richmond needs a new top of the rotation as well as a new catcher — but Andrew and Justin Vachon are hard throwers and ready to step in as leaders of the staff. Furthermore, Danny Stewart, Dakotah Gilpatric and Ben Gardner have already had playoff success as they move up in the lineup.

I’ve got a lot of interchangeable parts that I’m comfortable with,” coach Gardner said.

Temple Academy reached the playoffs as the region’s No. 7 seed, where it was eliminated in the quarterfinals by eventual state champion Richmond. This season, the Bereans are less experienced and will look to improve and develop players.

“Our young team will rely heavily on a few young returning players who are happy to teach the new and less experienced players the game of baseball,” coach Craig Riportella said.

Juniors Nathan Riportella, Travis Smith and Stevo Kruta, as well as sophomores Nick Blaisdell and Evan LaFountain, will handle most of the pitching.

As players learn the game, they’ll play a number of positions, coach Riportella said.

The youngest roster in the state could belong to Forest Hills. Of the 11 players on the team’s roster, six are in eighth0-graders and two more are freshmen. Brandon Gilboe and Jakob Rivas are the lone seniors. They, along with junior Hunter Cuddy, will be counted on for leadership as their young teammates are thrust into varsity baseball.

Valley’s new coach is Christian Corneil. A Bangor High School alum, Corneil played one year of college baseball at the University of Southern Maine before playing three years at Husson. Last season, he was an assistant coach at Bangor, helping the Rams win their fifth straight Class A state championship.

“I like the smaller school setting (at Valley),” Corneil said. “There’s been a lot of one-on-one instruction for me.”

The Cavaliers won one game last season, and Corneil said he’s looking for gradual improvement throughout the season. Senior Joey Thomas will pitch and play in the infield, while sophomore Kayden Cool will pitch and play a variety of positions. Sophomore Nathan Miller will handle the catching for the Cavs.

 

PREP

In the prep MAISAD league, Kents Hill has made the New England Small School Baseball Tournament two straight years, and the Huskies will bring a good team to the field in an attempt to secure a third straight trip. Gordon Beckwith, Mitch Tarrio and Sam Jalbert form a strong pitching rotation, and the defense behind them is good.

The lineup, though, is uncertain, and the Huskies will need their best players to carry the load because the team isn’t very deep.

“We once again have high expectations,” coach Mike Hannon said. “This group knows what it takes to get there and what it takes to advance.”

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Andrew Vachon, Richmond: Sophomore was pitching in the playoffs last year as a freshman, and will get the ball in big games this year.

Mitch Tarrio, Kents Hill: Augusta resident is part of a strong pitching staff that the Huskies will lean on as they aim for another New England tournament berth.

Joey Thomas, Valley: A senior, Thomas will pitch and play the infield for the Cavaliers.

Jakob Rivas, Forest Hills: A senior on a young team, Rivas will be counted on for this leadership and speed.

Nathan Riportella, Temple: A junior pitcher/catcher, will provide leadership to a young team looking to improve.

 

GAMES TO WATCH

Baseball:

April 30: Richmond at Buckfield

May 7: Valley at Forest Hills

May 15: Valley at Temple Academy

May 17: Waynflete/North Yarmouth at Richmond

May 28: St. Dominic at Richmond

 

PREDICTED CHAMP

Baseball: Searsport

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