Hall-Dale softball players celebrate as Zoe Soule comes to the dugout after she scored what would be the game-winning run over Bucksport in the Class C championship game Tuesday at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — There’s some celebrating and reflecting to do, but eventually, the page will turn.

It always does in baseball and softball, especially with summer having only just begun. Soon, if not already, local coaches and their returning players will have their minds set on next season, aiming either to right what went wrong or build on deep runs or even championships.

“You get kids who turn around right after this and start playing ball in the summertime,” said Skowhegan softball coach Lee Johnson. “They keep it going in the summer, and then they go and work on things in the winter. There’s a lot of commitment, and they work hard to come back strong next year.”

It’s never too early to take a look at who the top contenders might be when a new season dawns less than 10 months from now. There will be developments, of course, but after a strong year locally, a number of the teams that could have big dreams are right here in central Maine.  

Here’s a look at a few 2024 contenders:



A postseason staple in recent years, Skowhegan can always be counted on to contend in Class A North. Despite a roster that included only two seniors this year, the River Hawks had another outstanding campaign in 2023 as they went 16-3 and appeared in their seventh consecutive regional final.

Few teams around will be as veteran as Skowhegan next year. Replacing two of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s top players in Callaway LePage and Jackie Dodge won’t be easy, but the River Hawks will be back as an elite team with All-KVAC first-teamers Annabelle Morris and Lily Noyes leading the way.

“We had two kids starting in the same positions they were last year, so it was great to be able to go on the run we did,” Johnson said. “We’re losing a couple key players, but we’re in a good spot number-wise and have some good players coming. The expectations will be high.”

Elsewhere in Class A North, Messalonskee must replace one of the state’s top pitchers in Morgan Wills but returns seven starters in the field from this year’s 13-5 squad. Also returning seven starters is regional champ Oxford Hills, which boasts an elite pitcher in sophomore Kyeria Morse.

In Class B North, regional champ Nokomis loses Meg Watson and Cam King but returns two-time KVAC Class Player of the Year Mia Coots. In Class B South, Gardiner graduates a large senior class but brings back a strong trio in Lainey Cooley, Taylor Takatsu and Corinne Vasvary.

Skowhegan’s Annabelle Morris rounds third base and heads for home during a 2023 preseason game against Gardiner in Skowhegan. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

No team, though, will have more eyes on it next season than Hall-Dale. The Bulldogs added a third straight Class C state title this year as they stretched their winning streak to 56 games, and although they must replace outgoing head coach Steve Acedo, a four-peat isn’t an unreasonable goal for a team that graduated just two players.


“I’m still pretty confident. Yes, we’re losing (starting pitcher Rita Benoit), and we’re going to miss her a lot, but we also have Ashlynn (Donahue), who’s a solid pitcher, too,” said Hall-Dale catcher Zoe Soule. “In our lineup, all of us but Rita are going top be back. We should hit the ball really well.”

Monmouth Academy should be right behind Hall-Dale in Class C South, and Maine Central Institute has potential in C North with Kassie Snowman, Chi Chi Rivera and Skyla Dean returning from a 10-7 team. 


There’s rebuilding work to do locally in the top class with Messalonskee and Skowhegan suffering major losses. Cony should be set for a strong year in Class B North with several starters returning, though the Rams must replace one of the state’s best pitchers in Kam Douin.

As in softball, there’s a local Class C South team that will be defending a state title on the baseball diamond: Monmouth, which topped Bucksport 3-0 on Tuesday for the Class C crown. The Mustangs have graduated numerous seniors but also return some pieces that will have them at the front of the pack in 2024.

Mt. Abram pitcher Payton Mitchell delivers a pitch during a May 17 game in Winthrop. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“We’re returning our one and two arms, which is huge,” said Monmouth head coach Eric Palleschi, referring to ace Sammy Calder and No. 2 pitcher Kyle Palleschi. “We do lose that great group of seniors we had, but we have a great group of freshmen coming up that should be ready. It’s really a testament to our program.”

Mt. Abram should challenge Mustangs for the title with Payton Mitchell, Ash Rollins and Bryce Wilcox returning, and Winthrop returns a strong pitching trio in Carter Collin, Trent Collin and Braden Branagan. Statewide, Sacopee Valley will contend again with University of Maine commit Caleb Vacchiano set for his senior year.

Richmond had a strong year in Class D South at 12-5 and will be returning all but two players next season. 

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