Teams are beginning to get out on the baseball field for some real practices, and the anticipation for a new season is palpable.
Baseball teams across northern Maine are stacked and prepared to add more state titles to their record books after Ellsworth and Bucksport won titles in Class B and C, respectively, last season.
The games this spring between top teams will be battles. Some teams, such as John Bapst, have returned a lot of experience, while others, including Bangor, lost many of its seniors. Still, teams are excited, and the 16-game regular season is enough time to grow chemistry and a winning program.
Here are five teams that look to make some waves in the playoffs — or build back to a place of prominence.
Bucksport, Class C
Last season: 16-0, 1st seed, won Class C title 1-0 over Lisbon
After winning the Class C baseball state championship last year in a 1-0 win over Lisbon, the team is hoping to follow it up with another big season and add another title to the Bucksport trophy cabinet.
Players and coaches are asked about their chances of repeating more than they bring it up themselves, according to the team’s head coach, Josh Jackson. Still, the team is confident in the talent it returns.
“We lost five starters off last year’s team, which, that’s big,” Jackson said. “We are fortunate, though, that we have guys that can step into roles and have put in the work in the offseason. They’re ready to go.”
It’s a group that is full of juniors, including Ayden Maguire and Gavyn Holyoke.
“They know there’s a target on their back this year and all the teams know what we lost,” Jackson said. “I think a lot of teams are interested in what we bring to the table and I think it’ll be great to get going.”
Brandon Elden and Silas Moore are the two returning seniors. Bucksport lost five seniors from last season including Ty Giberson, who earned the win on the mound in the state title game last June.
Edward Little, Class A
Last season: 8-8, 7th seed, lost 1-0 in Class A North final to Bangor
Edward Little returns almost all of its pitching from a season ago, and that’s a huge advantage over its opponents.
Headlining the returning pitchers is junior ace Drew Smith, who is verbally committed to the University of Connecticut. But before his high school career comes to an end, Smith has two more years of ball with the Red Eddies and the A North runners-up last year are following Smith into the season.
“We love Drew on the mound and there are two or three other guys we love on the mound, too,” Edward Little head coach Dave Jordan said. “They give us a lot of effort, we just have to back them up with fielding and hitting. The nice thing about Drew is that he’s very humble and he’s got to be one of the hardest workers on our team. When you have a guy with that accountability it helps fuel everyone else.”
Campbell Cassidy and Brady Vincent are two lefties returning to the starting rotation, while Kade Masselli and Gage Ducharme are a couple returning arms. Brody Keefe pitched last year for the Red Eddies and could throw some innings this spring, but will play a lot behind the plate at catcher.
“We do have a lot of depth this year to create competition for innings, in the field, and for at bats,” Jordan added. “If I had to say what would define us this year, I think our pitching will be pretty good.”
Bangor, Class A
15-1, 1st seed, lost to Thornton Academy in state championship, 1-0
Bangor reached the state title game a season ago and lost a close contest to Thornton Academy. It was a senior-laden team and this season the Rams return without eight starters. Still, coach David Morris said he’s been in this position before.
“It’s not the first time we’ve lost a significant number of seniors but the good thing about it is we have a raw and talented freshman class and some sophomores that will fill in nicely,” Morris said. “It takes time like anything. It’s just getting time, learning fundamentals, learning how to practice and then being able to play a number of games to get that experience.”
Bangor returns Matt Holmes and Wyatt Stevens, last year’s state game starter, as two senior starters that will anchor the rotation. The team may lean on their two studs on the mound early in the season while others get into the swing of varsity baseball. Morris hopes the Rams will be better at the end of the season than the beginning and said he has kids who are not as experienced but love the game.
“We have some good coaches that know the game and it’s a process for us, too,” Morris said. “We want to take it one day at a time and get better each time we go out and play. Baseball is a game predicated on a lot of failure so we need to overcome that.”
Just because many starters left, doesn’t change the expectations for Bangor baseball.
“Just one day at a time,” Morris said. “We haven’t changed much from when we had a lot of seniors. We’ll be prepared.”
Old Town, Class B
Last season: 10-6, 2nd seed, lost in Class B North final to Ellsworth 3-2
Old Town was close to reaching the Class B state championship last year, a season after winning the Class B title in 2021. In what coach Justin Crisafulli thought might be a bridge year, the Coyotes gained a lot of playoff experience and now return the majority of the team, including seven starters, this spring.
Last season the team started 3-5. By the end of the year, the Coyotes finished the regular season on a 7-1 streak and in the last 13 games of the year scored 123 runs. Those numbers are cause for optimism.
“We can score and hit, put the ball in play, with the experience of last year and the playoffs, the kids saw what it’s like in the playoffs and now theyre pretty hungry,” Crisafulli said. “We were five outs away from the state championship game. They’re pretty hungry and have a long season ahead of them.”
Old Town has a lot of players ready to perform with Gabe Gifford leading the way. The senior pitcher will play at the University of Maine next year, but this season will look to be the ace for the Coyotes. It’ll be up to the offense to continue to give run support, according to Crisafulli.
“I said to the guys. ‘Yeah, you feel confident with Gabe pitching that game, but our offense has to show up,’” Crisafulli said. “Gabe is pitching but we are not all set, we have to score runs. We want to score even if Gabe is pitching to ease the pressure off of him. Having Gabe on the mound the last three years, the leadership he brings is huge, and he’s a captain.”
John Bapst, Class B
Last season: 11-6, 6th seed, lost to 11th Foxcroft 11-6 in round of 16
John Bapst returns nine players from last year’s 11-6 team that will feature 10 seniors this spring. That’s a good recipe for success.
“It makes a huge difference,” coach Jason O’Reilly said of having so much experience. “The teams that win are usually pretty top heavy. We’re excited about that and we have a lot of depth on the mound that I haven’t had a lot. I have four kids that can get behind the plate which is a luxury. It’s exciting, we have high hopes.”
Caleb Robbins and Jack Mason will be two pitchers at the top of the rotation and will help lead a team that expects to earn double-digit wins this season. Hosting a playoff game has also been set as a goal for the Crusaders.
The top-heavy B North will help sharpen John Bapst for the playoffs.
“We go out hoping to win and compete and I think there are a fair number of teams that are great competition,” O’Reilly added.