The Brewer Witches celebrate their first-ever state title in baseball at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor. Credit: John Holyoke

It’s easy to forgive Zach Steiger for his eagerness to take baseball practice outside.

The senior first baseman was sidelined last spring after shoulder surgery as his Brewer High School teammates captured the program’s first state championship in the sport with a walk-off 3-2 victory over Wells in the Class B title game.

Now comes Steiger’s chance to help the Witches position themselves for what they hope is another postseason run — if only they can get started.

“It was a little disappointing,” Steiger said of the snowfall that blanketed Heddericg Field and the rest of the area earlier this week. “Being cooped up in a gym throwing a baseball around, it’s kind of hard to throw real distance and get the feel of a real game back under me, which I haven’t had in a long time.”

Brewer lost six players, including the bulk of its pitching staff, off a team that finished 15-5 but has 30 prospects out for the sport this spring — 13 on varsity and 17 on the junior varsity.

Tenth-year head coach Dana Corey hopes to rely on the returning senior battery of pitcher-third baseman Levi Williamson and catcher Andrew Kiley along with some promising younger arms to provide the foundation for a new pitching staff that will keep the Witches competitive during their second season of Class B play.

“As time goes on I think we’re going to be alright,” Corey said. “I think we’ve got some kids who are really going to surprise some people, and hopefully that will work out the way we think it will.”

The leadership of Kiley, Williamson and Steiger likely will be pivotal in Brewer being able to maintain its standing against a slate of regular-season opponents that are armed with the additional motivation of wanting to knock off the defending state champions.

“We still have the leadership, we have the focus, we have the determination,” Kiley said. “Right now it’s just filling in new players, learning new positions, moving people around and fine-tuning our techniques to make ourselves the best we can be.”

Much of that work must wait until the Witches and other teams in the area finally can get on their now snow-covered — or at least soggy — diamonds. And the regular season is fast approaching. Brewer’s season opener is April 18 against Gardiner on the artificial turf at Kents Hill School.

In the meantime, much of the Witches’ practices, which are largely confined to the gymnasium, are focused on the more strategic elements of the game.

“We go over cutoffs, what to do on base hits, trap plays, bunt situations, offensive and defensive first-and-third situations, rundowns. Then when we get outside and there’s more space it all slows down for them a little bit,” Corey said.

“You’ve got to get that mental part of the game in, because when we finally do get outside situations are going to come up and hopefully we’ve gone over them or at least we can review them when they do. You’ve got to be as ready as you can for those first countable games.”

For Steiger, that readiness includes strengthening his throwing ability after initially injuring his right shoulder during the 2017-2018 ice hockey season and then reinjuring last fall it while earning All-Class B North recognition as a linebacker for Brewer’s football team.

“That’s big for me: Getting my shoulder back in throwing mode,” he said. “It’s different being inside, you don’t get a good gauge on what you can fully do because it’s not the full length.

“But the leadership and determination of the whole team is still there like it was last year. I remember watching these guys and seeing them jell together. I can see that it’s still there.”

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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...