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Capsule outlook of the area’s high school baseball teams

High school baseball outlook

Coe-Brown

Division: II

Coach: James Johnson (9th year)

Last year: 7-10, lost in first round

Returning starters: Brennan Riley, sr., P/CF; Andrew Langdon, sr., SS; McCormick Struthers, so., 3B; Ethan Moreno, sr., 2B; Sean Simoneau, sr., P/OF; Matt Cunningham, jr., OF

Top newcomers: Ben Bailey, jr., C; Kyle Stevens, jr., 1B; Joe Anatone, jr., P

Outlook: With five starters returning from last year and a sixth – Cunningham – returning after being injured all of last year, experience is a definite strength for the Bears. Riley and Simoneau will be at the top of the rotation, with solid infield defense behind them from Langdon, Struthers and Moreno. Offensively, Riley, Cunningham and Tucker Hayford should provide some power. “The goal is to be a tough out in June,” Coach Johnson said.

Teams to beat: Portsmouth, Goffstown, MV, Pembroke

John Stark

Division: II

Coach: Ricky Hession (1st year)

Last year: 2-14, did not make tournament

Returning starters: Nick Manna, sr., SS; Jeff Taylor, sr., CF; Ryan Thompson, jr., C; Tyler Keim, jr., P/1B

Top newcomers: Josh Colby, sr., 1B/P; Blake Gorski, jr., 3B/OF/P; Tyler Gamache, jr., U; Paul Montray, sr., P/3B; Josh Morin, jr., IF; David Nelson, so., C/P; Ben Casazza, jr., OF; Alex Morse, jr., P/OF

Outlook: Coach Hession inherits a squad with great team leadership. “They have shown dedication since 6 a.m. workouts in November and it hasn’t let up since,” Hession said. The Generals have put a great deal of work in on their offensive game – a weak point last year – and hope to reverse their fortunes. Hession says “pitching will take us where we need to go, and there is not one position that feels as though it is a weakness.” The new coach is excited to get started with this group of players. “They strive for greatness and are not afraid to fail,” he said. “Their work ethic, character and teamwork, combined with their talent, will be the key to our success.”

Teams to beat: Portsmouth, Goffstown, Lebanon, St. Thomas

Merrimack Valley

Division: II

Coach: Sean Wheeler (11th year)

Last year: 9-9, lost in quarterfinals

Returning starters: David Drouin, sr., OF/P; Cody Barton, sr., OF/P; Brooks Kimball, jr., 3B/P; Brady Wentworth, jr., SS; Andrew Peick, jr., C

Top newcomers: Damon Perron, jr., OF/P; Riley Linehan, jr., OF/P; Charlie Wright, jr., 1B/P; Jake Landry, so., OF/P; Scott Schofield, so., 2B/C

Outlook: Senior ace and University of Hartford-bound Drouin will lead a deep and talented pitching staff. Drouin, a four-year starter, recorded more than 90 strikeouts last season in earning First Team All-State honors and will be followed up by No. 2 pitcher and fellow senior Barton. Linehan, Kimball and lefty junior Anthony Webb will also battle for innings on the mound for the Pride. Wentworth will anchor the infield defense at shortstop with Kimball and Peick returning as third-year starters. Newcomers Wright and Schofield will also play in the infield. Perron, Landry and Linehan add depth to the outfield. The Pride has plenty of varsity experience and hopes to ride the arms of its senior pitchers deep into the D-II tournament.

Pembroke

Division: II

Coach: Joshua Coughlin (2nd year)

Last year: 10-8, lost in quarterfinals

Returning starters: Autrey Gates, sr., P/IF; Shane St. Onge, sr., P/IF; Brandon Bachelder, sr., P/IF; Seth Gonya, sr., C; Vinny Dustin, so., OF; Jeremy Caruso, so., P/IF

Top newcomers: Michael Martinez, sr., C/P/IF; Chris Gauss, jr., P; Dean Dustin, jr., OF; Alex Martinez, fr., P/OF

Outlook: The Spartans have a good group of seniors to supply both leadership and pitching, starting with Gates (First Team All-State last year) and St. Onge, who should also lead the offense along with Dustin and Gonya. “The season is short and roles are still being determined,” Coughlin said, “but with the business-like attitude the team has shown early on, we expect good things to happen this season.”

Teams to beat: Portsmouth, Goffstown, Lebanon, St. Thomas

Belmont

Division: III

Coach: Matt LeBlanc (3rd year)

Last year: 7-10, lost in play-in

Returning starters: Kaleb Brace, sr., C/OF/P; Aaron McLelland, sr., OF; Cole Padula, sr., 1B; Angelo Palmer, sr., OF; Bret Spaulding, sr., P/SS; Austin Wilder, sr., IF/OF; Garrett Gilbert, jr., OF/DH/P; Brent Minery, jr., OF/DH/P; Ryan Pluskis, jr., P/1B/OF; Jason Taylor, jr., IF/P; Joey Levesque, so., P/3B/SS

Top newcomers: Bryan McLelland, sr., IF; Curtis McLelland, jr., C/IF; PJ Stamas, sr., IF/C/P; Cedric Witham, jr., OF

Outlook: With all but one starter returning from last year’s tournament team, the Red Raiders are looking to use their experience to make it even deeper in the postseason this year. “We were competitive all last season and are hoping to turn some of our close losses into wins,” Coach LeBlanc said. “We continue to put in a positive effort and are hoping for an increase in success from years past.”

Teams to beat: “The division is very competitive and there are too many top teams to mention,” LeBlanc said. “All of the teams have the prospect of being very good.”

Bishop Brady

Division: III

Coach: Skip Foy (8th year, 1st since 1994)

Last year: 3-13, did not make tournament in Division II

Returning starters: Max Sokul, sr., 1B; Casey Anderson, sr., OF; Thomas Pelchat, jr., OF

Top newcomers: Brendan Johnson, so., SS/P; Drew Kalil, jr., IF/P; Tom Blandini, fr., 2B/SS/P; Chapin Bassi, fr., P/SS; Kyle Jalbert, so., C/P; Danny Fogarty, jr., 1B/P; Adam Gamache, so., 2B/P/OF; Jourdain Bell, so., CF/SS; JP Nemcovich, fr., C; CJ Puleo, jr., 3B

Outlook: With only three returning players and 10 players who have never played varsity baseball before, this will be a rebuilding year for the Green Giants. Coach Foy, who returns to coaching at Bishop Brady after a 19-year hiatus (with other coaching stints since), has a very young team to work with. “We’re looking forward to rebuilding the program and turning the team around,” Foy said. With a talented, but young, pitching staff, the Green Giants have emphasized excellent defense in order to give them some support. Inexperience will be a factor early on, as Brady opens up on the road against defending champion Hopkinton, without any practice time on an actual diamond. According to Foy, the goal this season is “to experience varsity baseball. The future is bright.”

Teams to beat: Hopkinton, Bow, Winnisquam, Franklin

Bow

Division: III

Coach: Ben Forbes (14th year)

Last year: 8-10, lost in quarterfinals

Returning starters: Hunter Berke, sr., OF; Matt Murray, sr., OF; Tyler Lambert, sr., OF/P; Chris Fournier, jr., C; Sam Morrow, jr., 2B/P; Nate Corriveau, jr., SS/P

Top newcomer: Evan Vulgamore, fr., IF

Outlook: With six returning starters and many role players from last year, the Falcons look to improve on last year’s tournament bid. Pitching and defense remain important, but the Falcons are also looking to increase their run production from last season in order to keep some pressure off of the young pitching staff.

Teams to beat: “Any team on any given day can play like a state champion,” Coach Forbes said.

Franklin

Division: III

Coach: Todd Rudis (1st year)

Last year: 12-7, lost in quarterfinals

Returning starters: Craig Lebrun, jr., P/SS; Jake Jameson, sr., 2B/SS; Robert Ellis, sr., 1B/P; Devin Basha, so., C

Top newcomers: Matt Prive, sr., INF; Clayton Ford, jr., OF; Nate Grevior, sr., OF

Outlook: Despite losing 2012 D-III Player of the Year Brian Pickowicz, the Golden Tornadoes still have a strong core of returning players. However, this season still presents a great opportunity for seniors Alex Turner, Myles Lynch and Brandon Gagnon to step into larger, starting roles at multiple positions. Lebrun leads a strong group of pitchers, and Ellis, a strong all-around player, will anchor the middle of the lineup. Basha, Lebrun, Jameson and Gagnon should provide solid defense. Hitting may be an area of concern, as few players in the projected starting lineup have had varsity at-bats.

Hillsboro-Deering

Division: III

Coach: Chris Parsons (2nd year)

Last year: 3-13, did not make tournament

Returning starters: Robert Armstrong, sr., 1B/P; Dan Kulbacki, sr., SS/P; Brian Doherty, sr., RF; Max Parenteau, jr., 3B/P/OF; Danny Egner, jr., 2B/P; Brett Bennett, jr., 1B/C; Andrew Roberge, so., SS/P

Top newcomers: Troy Girard, so., OF; Jonas Hofstetter, so., OF; Tyler Wood, so., OF

Outlook: The Hillcats had some success with the bats last year, scoring 30 runs in their first six games, but the offense slowed down after that and the pitching struggled for most of the season (7.2 runs allowed per game). They’ll have to improve on both fronts to make a return to the postseason, but they do have some experience returning to the mound.

Hopkinton

Division: III

Coach: Dave Chase (17th year)

Last year: 20-1, Division III champion

Returning starters: Harry Legier, sr., OF/P; Colin O’Keeffe, sr., 1B; Steve Auger, sr., 2B/OF; Jake Nelson, jr., C; Liam McNicholas, jr., OF/P

Top newcomers: Collin Paraskeva, jr., SS/3B/P; Andrew Clay, jr., P/3B; Wes Rose, jr., OF; Andrew Reale, jr., 3B/DH; Nate Shatney, jr., P/OF; Luke Greabe, so., 2B/SS; Evan O’Keeffe, so., 3B/P; Riley McNicholas, so., 2B/SS/P; Kevin Smith, so., 2B/OF; Kyle LaPage, so., OF

Outlook: The Hawks graduated six seniors from last year’s championship team, including almost all of their pitching. Liam McNicholas has pitched a few varsity innings, but other than that Hopkinton will have to rely on unproven arms. The good news is the team has been infused with hungry talent from the junior varsity program and still has all-state players like Auger, Nelson and Colin O’Keeffe to help the newcomers adjust to the varsity level.

Teams to beat: Campbell, Conant, Fall Mountain, Monadnock

Kearsarge

Division: III

Coach: Travis Pelletier (1st year)

Last year: 6-10, did not make tournament in Division II

Returning players: Nicholas Bailey, jr., OF; Cameron Commerford, jr., IF/P; Christian DiDominic, jr., OF/P; Bradly Donnelly, sr., P/OF/C; Andrew Ellis, jr., OF; Dennis Heiner Jr., jr., 1B/P; Zachary Lobdell, sr., 3B; Ben Newbern, so., OF; James Scherer, jr., P/1B; Ryan Stanley, so., SS/P/C

Top newcomers: James Bromwell, so., OF; Berkley Stevens, jr., C/1B

Outlook: Pelletier takes over the reins of a veteran ballclub that returns a majority of its roster from last year. “This team has the potential to be a very good baseball team,” Pelletier said, adding that he expects the Cougars “to be very competitive throughout the year.”

Winnisquam

Division: III

Coach: Fred Caruso (7th year)

Last year: 4-14, lost in play-in

Returning starters: Parker Normand, sr., OF/P; Curtis Archibald, sr., IF/C; Austin Hunt, sr., P/IF; Tucker Normand, so., OF/P; Caleb Hutchins, sr., 3B/P; John Montalto, sr., 1B

Top newcomers: Dom DeBlasie, jr., C/P; Jack Decormier, fr., IF/P; Greg Hunt, so., OF/C; Torrey Martinez, so., IF/P

Outlook: After three straight final four appearances (2009-2011 seasons) and a state championship, the team suffered a disappointing 2012 season due to youth, major season-ending injuries and off-field distractions. As a result the Bears, especially the returning players, are very motivated to erase memories of last season. Tucker Normand (Third Team All-State as a freshman) is healthy and should be a force at the top of the lineup. DeBlasie (transferred back from Bishop Brady) will stabilize the defense behind the plate, add another strong arm on the mound and anchor the middle of the offense. Parker Normand (co-captain with fellow senior Archibald) is one of the best outfielders in the state. Hunt is looking for a big year on the mound. “If we pitch well, we should be very competitive,” Coach Caruso said.

Teams to beat: Hopkinton, Campbell, Laconia, Belmont

Pittsfield

Division: IV

Coach: Rob Stockman (7th year)

Last year: 12-7, lost in semifinals

Returning starters: Wesley Ward, sr., C; Tyler Stockman, sr., IF; Keith Duclos, sr., IF; Jacob Whitter, sr., OF; Jed Eastman, jr., P/IF; Kris Perkins, jr., P/OF; Chris Farr, jr., P/IF; Max Tuttle, jr., IF/OF

Top newcomer: Jesse Slater, fr. OF/C

Outlook: With eight returning starters and three junior pitchers, this veteran team is looking to make a run at the title after making it to the semifinals last year. Pitching and hitting are both strengths. The Panthers need to solidify their defense, but Coach Stockman believes he has the players to do it. “This group took a big step last year getting to the (semifinal) level of the playoffs and have shown me that they are a mentally tough team. If we can put all three phases of the game together, we should be right there with the best teams in Division IV.”

Teams to beat: Colebrook, Lisbon, Newmarket

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