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Wednesday, April 6, 2011
New England Roundup: Maine

By Gary Hawkins

A snowstorm that dumped up to 12 inches of snow on many areas of the state last Friday set baseball teams back a week or 10 days, but indoor practices continue and many teams in southern Maine should be outside this weekend.

MaineThe season gets under way at the end of next week.

Here’s a look at some of the top teams in all four classes:

CLASS A
Westbrook: The Blue Blazes return several players from the team that was upset by Biddeford in the Western Maine final last season. Many of the players on this year’s team also played on a Little league World Series team five years ago. Among them is left-handed pitcher Scott Heath who will play at the University of Maine next season.

Sean Murphy, a 6-foot-5 right-hander, is also back and apparently over shoulder problems that limited his innings last season. He has verbally committed to play at St. John’s next season.

Deering: The Rams return seven seniors from last year’s playoff team, including center fielder Sam Balzano and pitcher Jamie Ross who was also the school’s quarterback. The Rams, who last won a title in 2009, have won eight out of the last 12 state championships. Former University of Maine standout and minor leaguer Mark Sutton takes over as coach.

Bangor: The Rams went undefeated during the regular season last spring before being upset by Brewer in the East A semifinals. Despite key graduation losses they return a lot of pitching, led by lefties Joe Stanevicz (8-0, 2.21 ERA) and Curtis Worcester. Catcher Dylan Morris, who hit .475 last season, also returns. Bangor also features a number of players who played for the team that reached the Senior League World Series championship game last summer.

Also contending: Lewiston, Cony, Cheverus, Scarborough.

Defending champion: Oxford Hills

CLASS B
Waterville: The Purple Panthers graduated some key players, including shortstop and closer John Gaudette, but return enough to repeat as state champs. They bring back their top two pitchers in Tim Locke and Kyle Bishop along with top-notch hitters in J.T. Whitten and Cam Sawyer.

Cape Elizabeth: The Capers lost to Waterville in the state final and would like another shot at the title. Rob McDonald, who took the pitching loss in the state finals, is among the returning players along with shortstop Cam Brown.

Yarmouth: The Clippers return a solid group from a team that went 15-1 last season and lost in the Western Maine final. shortstop Luke Pierce leads a strong offensive lineup while lefty Campbell Haley is expected to top the pitching rotation.

Also contending: Greely, Lincoln Academy, Mountain Valley, Gray-New Gloucester, Bucksport.

Defending champion: Waterville

CLASS C
St. Dominic: The Saints are perennial contenders, having won three state championships since 2005. They were eliminated by Dirigo last season in the playoffs but are the favorite in the West this year. Shortstop Alex Parker and pitcher Kurt Johnson are among their leading returnees.

Calais: The Blue Devils graduated just three players from last year’s Eastern Maine championship team and should contend again. Pitcher Adam Geel, who went 7-1 last season, heads up the rotation while outfielder Jeremy Beers is one of the team’s top returning hitters. Calais is still young with 11 sophomores and juniors on the squad.

Telstar: The Rebels haven’t won a state title since 1989 but feel they have a shot this season. They’ll have to get past St. Dom’s at some point but have a solid No.1 pitcher capable of doing so in Ben Field. Former Mt. Abram coach Ryan Palmer takes over as coach this season.

Contenders: Penobscot Valley, Lee, North Yarmouth, Wiscasset.

Defending champion: Dirigo

CLASS D
Central Aroostook: The Panthers, who are coming off a state basketball championship, return many of the players who led the teams to the Eastern Maine baseball title last spring. Included in that group are No. 1 pitcher Logan McLaughlin, shortstop Dan Brewer and Brendan York.

Greenville: The Lakers came two outs away from reaching the state title game but lost in the final inning after leading 2-0. They return a number of good athletes who have excelled in other sports as well, including seniors Tony DeAngelo and Alex Jardine and junior Tristan Richards.

Southern Aroostook: The Warriors went 13-1 last season before losing to eventual Eastern Maine champ Central Aroostook. Murray Putnam, entering his 43rd season as head coach, has amassed over 450 victories, 10 Eastern Maine titles and five state championships.

Contenders: Katahdin, Deer Isle-Stonington, Richmond.

Defending champion: Richmond

BANGOR'S INCREDIBLE RUN
Bangor High School male athletes have been on a run for the past 11 months that has included two state championships along with an Eastern Maine Class A title and an unbeaten regular season in baseball. Over that span they’ve compiled a record of 65-4-1 while winning state titles in soccer and basketball.

The Rams also played for the Class A football championship this fall. Along the way, many of those athletes competed on the American Legion playoff team last summer or Bangor’s run to the Senior League World Series championship game. After going unbeaten in baseball during the regular season last spring, the Rams were upset by rival 2-0 in the Eastern Maine tournament. This spring they’re again a favorite among baseball teams in Class A east.

Three team members — Seth Freudenberger, Luke Hetterman and Jacques Larochelle — are going for their third title of the school year after playing on championship teams in soccer and basketball.