Challenges aplenty for area baseball squads
The 2016 high school baseball season saw a few area teams get on a roll come playoff team.
One played in a state championship game, another in a regional final and yet another made a return to the postseason ... and surprised a couple teams.
Here is a look at the 2017 campaign, which for several teams began this week.
Bob Neron’s Eagles showed improvement throughout the 2016 season.
Though the team’s 7-9 regular season might not seem impressive on the outside, the way the team rallied for those seven wins certainly was. Mt. Ararat was 6-2 in games decided by two runs or less, and the Eagles carried momentum into the postseason, a place a Mt. Ararat baseball squad had not been since the 2009 season. In fact, Neron’s first four teams were a combined 10-54.
But, there is certainly reason to look forward to this year, which began for Mt. Ararat against Messalonskee on Wednesday (a 4-0 setback).
In the Class A North quarterfinals, Mt. Ararat went to South Paris to take on a talented Oxford Hills squad. What followed was a game to remember, especially for starting pitcher Garrett Moody, who held the Vikings to just six hits in a 4-2 win. Guess what Eagles fans, Moody was a sophomore last year and returns to give his Eagles a shot at a win each time he steps on the mound.
The semifinals were next for Neron’s team, and the Red Eddies of Edward Little, the No. 2 seed, was next. Down 4-1 in the sixth inning, Mt. Ararat seemed to be out of it. But, a run-scoring double by Jacob O’Neil, an error, and an RBI by Moody had the Eagles in a 4-4 deadlock heading to the seventh.
But, EL found a way, using a bases-loaded walk to win, 5-4.
Mt. Ararat has a solid nucleus returning, and the Eagles have certainly put in the work, working out in the offseason in preparation for a solid run this year.
Looking at the schedule, Mt. Ararat is scheduled to open its home slate on Friday against Cony (1 p.m.) before entertaining “Battle of the Bridge” rival Brunswick on Monday (4:15 p.m.). Past that, Mt. Ararat has key matchups with Hampden Academy (home, May 8), Bangor (away, May 12), Oxford Hills (home, May 15) and Edward Little (home, May 24) before closing the regular season May 30 at Brunswick.
Thinking of Brunswick, it was a tough 2016 season for Luke Potter’s charges, who finished 3-13 and missed the postseason.
Close games were a problem for the Dragons, who lost nine contests by three runs or less.
Still, Brunswick, which dropped its opener on Wednesday to Hampden Academy, 10-1, had two wins over Mt. Ararat last season and will look to figure things out at home on Friday against Skowhegan (1 p.m.) before heading across the bridge on Monday to face those Eagles.
As always, the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference is sure to provide the Dragons with stiff competition. Brunswick has home dates with Oxford Hills (April 26), Bangor (April 28), Camden Hills (May 5) and Lewiston (May 10) among its tough slate.
What a run it was for Bill Ridge’s Falcons last year.
A 10-6 regular-season mark in the tough Western Maine Conference had Freeport prepared, and behind the right arms of Jack Davenport and Josh Burke earned four Class B South playoff wins while allowing a combined four runs in victories over Morse, York, Greely and Cape Elizabeth.
Freeport’s first Class B South state championship game was one to forget, a 12- 2 Old Town victory in Bangor. However, there is reason for continued high spirits in Freeport despite the graduation of the standout Davenport.
The Falcons open Friday at Lake Region (11 a.m.) and host Poland in their home opener on Monday (4 p.m.). Freeport has a lot of home cooking next week, with home dates against Sacopee Valley (Wednesday) and Gray-New Gloucester (April 28).
Freeport faces some tough tests in the second half of the season, hosting Cape Elizabeth (May 10) and Yarmouth (May 12), as well as visiting York (May 15) and Greely (May 24).
The Greyhounds opened their Mountain Valley Conference season with a quality 2-1 win over Madison/Carrabec on Wednesday, getting Lisbon off to a solid start.
The team has high expectations this season, with a solid pitching staff led by Lucas Francis, Tyler Halls and Ryley Austin, along with a balanced lineup that features experience and youth.
The tests are sure to come, with Dirigo (April 28) and Monmouth (May 27) among the teams visiting Lisbon, while the Greyhounds have a tough road schedule against the likes of Monmouth (May 3), a rematch with Madison/Carrabec (May 12) midway through a five-game road stint and Dirigo (May 24).
Of note, St. Dom’s, long a thorn in Lisbon’s side before last season’s 4-2 Class C South semifinal win, has moved to the WMC. However, Sacopee Valley, which downed Lisbon in last season’s regional final at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish (7-6), is sure to be around come playoff time.
As with most teams, Garrett Olson’s Morse Shipbuilders have been stuck inside during its preparations for the coming season, waiting for its field to dry.
The Shipbuilders get their chance to play a game on Saturday at home against Erskine Academy (4 p.m.), looking to build off a playoff appearance last year.
Morse went 4-12 in 2016, but qualified for a Class B South preliminary game against Freeport. A 5-1 Falcons win ended Morse’s season, a year that saw the Shipbuilders struggle to score runs. A five-game midseason losing skid certainly didn’t help, as well as a 3-5 record in games decided by three runs or less.
The Shipbuilders have a solid slate of games, including a doubleheader at Lincoln Academy on April 29. Morse hosts Belfast (April 28), along with home dates against Winslow (May 2), Gardiner (May 10) and Waterville (May 15).
Ryan Gardner’s charges are quite frankly expecting a lot this season.
Not much changed after Tuesday’s season-opening 5- 0 East-West Conference victory over Vinalhaven/North Haven, with the Bobcats set to visit North Yarmouth Academy today at 4 p.m. and Sacopee Valley on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Last year, Richmond claimed an 11-5 record and the No. 3 seed in Class D South. A quarterfinal 3-2 win over NYA followed before a 4-1 semifinal setback at Valley ended things for the Bobcats.
This year, the early part of the season is loaded with home games — Rangeley (Tuesday), Buckfield (May 2), Valley (May 4) and NYA (May 5) — before closing the season with six of the Bobcats’ final nine games on the road.
Besides the out-of-conference contests this week, Richmond tackles Old Orchard Beach (May 15), Traip Academy (May 11) and St. Dom’s (May 30), a tough schedule that should get the Bobcats prepared.