ORONO, Maine — Bangor High School has been home to the state’s dominant baseball program for the last three years, compiling a 55-5 record and winning consecutive Class A state championships in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

New head coach Dave Morris and his returning players hope to maintain the status quo.

Morris, a longtime baseball presence in the area who served as an assistant coach at Bangor for the last seven years, replaces the retired Jeff Fahey, who guided the Rams to a 246-50 record and four state titles in 16 years as head coach.

The roster Morris inherits blends youth and experience, with a six-member senior class featuring pitchers Peter Kemble and Nick Cowperthwaite, catcher Derek Fournier and middle infielder George Payne headlining a roster that otherwise gained much of its experience last spring at the junior varsity level.

While some of the faces and roles are different, a consistency to the collective attitude remains.

“There’s definitely been a lot of changes with personnel and guys moving up and guys who have left who have been big players here the last four years, but really the mindset is the same,” said Payne during a break Monday in the Rams’ first outdoor experience of the spring, an exhibition game against Winslow at Mahaney Diamond on the campus of the University of Maine.

“It’s just taking it one game at a time and not really focusing on the past but just focusing on this season and who we are as a team.”

That continuity stems in large part from familiarity. Morris not only was on Fahey’s staff while the current squad worked its way to varsity prominence, he’s also led most of the players during the summer as head coach of the Bangor Coffee News Comrades, who won American Legion state championships in 2014 and 2015 and were runners-up last August.

“Anytime you change from somebody who’s been there as long as Jeff has it’s going to be different,” said Morris, “but with the kids knowing me from the summer and from being an assistant coach we’re really trying to change as few things as possible because I think what Jeff did for many years was the right thing to do.

“It’s going to be a transition for all of us but the kids have done a great job with it. They really have taken the initiative.”

That initiative has included veteran players taking on a mentorship role with varsity newcomers to ease their adjustment to the heightened competition.

“We only have two coaches this year instead of the three or four we had in the past, so we almost take on a role as coaches a little bit,” said Kemble, the University of Maine-bound right-hander. “It’s a lot of fun because the younger guys respect you and look up to you, and they’re all great guys.”

Bangor graduated two of its top four pitchers from last spring, with Trevor DeLaite — the state’s 2016 Mr. Baseball — now playing at UMaine and reliever Jesse Colford at Husson University in Bangor.

Kemble, Bangor’s No. 2 starter last spring, takes over as the staff ace after a strong American Legion effort last summer when he went 6-0 with a 1.13 earned run average and was named Zone 1 player of the year.

Cowperthwaite also moves up in the rotation after earning All-Zone 1 first-team pitching honors last summer while senior Gary Farnham looks to step into the third starter’s slot. John Neel, Zach Cowperthwaite, Noah Missbrenner, Nick Canarr and senior left-hander Noah Tappan are among other candidates to pitch to Fournier, a third-year starter considered one of the state’s top catchers.

Payne, Kemble, Fournier and Nick Cowperthwaite should anchor the top of the Bangor batting order, while sophomores Zach Cowperthwaite and Missbrenner add depth to the middle of the lineup along with Farnham and junior center fielder Tyler Parke.

“This group understands that if you get to a playoff and are fortunate enough to win the whole thing it’s a byproduct of what you do on an everyday basis,” said Morris, who is being assisted this spring by former Orono head coach Tim Bush.

Morris expects parity within the Class A North baseball ranks, with Edward Little of Auburn, Oxford Hills of South Paris and Messalonskee of Oakland among the top challengers.

Bangor begins its title defense April 19 at Oxford Hills and plays its home opener April 21 at 1 p.m. against Lewiston.

“It just drives us,” said Nick Cowperthwaite of the recent championship history. “It makes us want to be the best we can be because we know what we can do. We’ve got an awesome team right here and I think we can do it again.”

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...