Baseball returned with aplomb last season in central Maine, with three teams making regional championship games and two players making the cut as finalists for the Winkin Award.

This season is shaping up to be a strong one as well.

Start in Class A, where area teams could be in the running for state title consideration. Skowhegan reached the Class A North final before falling to Bangor, and hopes are high that the River Hawks could be a tough matchup again. Left fielder Quintcey McCray and shortstop Tyler Annis are back at the top of the order, third baseman and leading hitter Hunter McEwen is back after batting cleanup last year, and Brendan Dunlap, who will move to catcher, returns as a middle of the order bat.

The River Hawks lost a good amount of their pitching, but Jackson Quinn shined in the rotation last year and will be Skowhegan’s No. 1 on the mound.

“The junior and sophomore classes have got some pretty good baseball players,” coach Mike LeBlanc said. “Those groups, there are a lot of baseball players only, and they spend a lot of time in the winter working on their game, and in the summer they play all the time. … I think our defense will carry us. Our hitting needs to improve a little bit.”

A team that Skowhegan beat on the way to the regional final, Messalonskee, could be even stronger after going 13-4 last season. The Eagles bring back a balanced and potent lineup, led by third baseman Mitchell Grant, middle infielder Garrett Card, first baseman and pitcher Jacob Love and catcher Joe Ardito.


“We have 14 guys on our roster as of now for varsity, and I think I could pick nine guys out that … easily have the potential to bat over .300,” coach Eric Palin said. “I think we could have seven to nine starters all around that .300 plus.

“I think we should be improved. We’re a team that doesn’t feel like we have any limitations. We feel like we should be competing for a state title, to be frank.”

Monmouth made it the farthest of any area team last season, going to the Class C final. The Mustangs lost only senior Cam Armstrong from their starting lineup, but since COVID resulted in a lost 2020 season, Eric Palleschi said his team is still lacking some varsity experience.

“We return a bunch of guys, (but) not much experience at the varsity level. A lot of guys, last year was their first year,” he said. “Even the juniors we have this year, last year was their first year.”

Still, Palleschi knows he has a strong foundation with the return of players like catcher Sam Calder, shortstop Hayden Fletcher and first baseman Matt Marquis.

“We have to work a lot harder than we did last year,” he said. “Getting to the level that we got to last year, one of the biggest things that it helped with was kind of getting these kids over the hump of ‘Can we get there?'”


Monmouth is not alone; continuity is a theme in the Mountain Valley Conference this year. Mt. Abram went 15-4 en route to the C South semifinals and will be led by shortstop and pitcher Trevor Phelps. Hall-Dale brings back a solid group led by pitcher/third baseman Max Byron and first baseman Ben Nathan, and Oak Hill lost Winkin Award finalist Gavin Rawstron but returns seven starters from last year’s team that went 15-4 and reached the C South semifinals.

Waterville baserunner Joe Hamelin celebrates after doubling against Oceanside during a Class B North prelim game last season in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Trent Drouin led the team in batting average and RBI and will play shortstop, while Ethan Vattaso and Kyle Delano give the Raiders a strong one-two pitching punch and catcher Isaac Morissette and first baseman Jackson Arbour are back after playing key roles.

“There’s going to be some added responsibility for certain guys,” coach Chad Stowell said. “I think some of the veterans that we have right now are ready for that challenge.”

Always tough and competitive, Class B should be tightly packed again. Lawrence went 11-6 en route to the B North quarters, and coach Rusty Mercier said his team, led by seniors Logan Carpenter (pitcher/first base), Andrew Trombley (catcher/center field) and Nate Grard (left field) and pitchers Ben Ryder and Hunter Lee, should be strong on defense.

“We’re looking to build on that. We like to take pride in our pitching, defense and baserunning,” Mercier said. “We like to play some small ball, we like to delay steal. … We had some kids have success hitting the baseball last year, we’re hoping to have that return also.”

Cony first baseman James Presti, left, tags out Medomak Valley baserunner Porter Gahagan on pick throw from pitcher Cam Douin, top, during a scrimmage Tuesday at Morton Field in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Cony drops to Class B after going 8-8 in Class A, and though the Rams lost Winkin Award finalist Kyle Douin, they should still be a contender with pitcher/first baseman Kam Douin and pitcher/outfielder Brayden Barbeau leading the way. Waterville, led by shortstop Joe Hamelin, and Gardiner, led by third baseman Chase Kelley and outfielders Luke Lawrence and Ryan Banister, should be strong. Maranacook, a KVAC team playing in Class C that will be led by shortstop/pitcher Tyler Hreben and pitcher/first baseman Alex Trafton, will have a good rotation and lineup.

Erskine went 10-8 and reached the B South quarterfinals. With Grady Hotham back after a strong year on the mound and Isaac Hayden and Liam Perfetto back at catcher and center field, respectively, new coach Colby Foster’s first team should be a winning one.

“I (see) us being really competitive in every game that we play,” Foster said. “It all depends on how that bottom of the lineup produces runs and if we can score.”

Richmond will play in a six-team Class D South with Rangeley, Valley and Temple not fielding teams. Even in a full region, the Bobcats would be poised for success after graduating only one player from a team that went 13-3 and reached the D South final last year.

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