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Baseball Preview: Spring Has Sprung for Upper Valley Teams

Joe Flanagan takes a cut during baseball practice at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H., on April 22, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)

Joe Flanagan takes a cut during baseball practice at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H., on April 22, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)

Most of a tough winter’s lingering ice has finally melted, buds are starting to become visible on tree branches, and — most importantly for Upper Valley high school baseball teams — many of the diamonds and outfields strewn with mud and snow just a couple of weeks ago are beginning to dry out.

As in most years, some of the area’s teams didn’t practice outside one iota, exiting the gymnasium as a unit for the first time only for their season openers. Yet they’re all happy to be out there.

A look at the Upper Valley’s teams and their prospects for the season:

Hanover

Coach: Mike Jackson (26).

League: New Hampshire Division II.

Last Year: 13-7, lost to Goffstown in quarterfinals.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Ben Herndon-Miller (INF/P), Jordan Levin (INF/P), Evan Greenwald (OF/P) Jacob Farnham (C/OF); Juniors — Sam Hastings (C), Rohan Kumar (INF/P).

Who’s New: Juniors — Josh Goodrich (INF/OF/P), Jack Olszewski (INF/OF), Chris Gunderman (INF/P),  Kieran Read (OF); Sophomores — Parker Thurston (INF/OF/P), Dave Stocken (OF), Dan Ray (INF), Nick Rassias (OF), Pat Dyroff (INF/P).

Who’s Gone: Joe Cravero, Cyrus Rothwell-Ferraris, Isaac Fleming-Steinberg, Harry Dwinell, Liam Gantrish, Sam Mellert, Craig Uryase, Matt Whelan, Jesse Cutting, Rob Sabatelle.

Strength:  Defense.

Weakness: Lack of varsity experience at key positions.

Players to Watch:  Herndon-Miller, Levin, Greenwald, Farnham. 

Toughest Opponents: Lebanon, Souhegan, Hollis-Brookline, Plymouth.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “After losing 10 seniors and another starter from last year’s team, we have our work cut out for us. However, we have good kids who work, listen and wish to improve. We are taking that work ethic to our season and will work to improve every day.”

Hartford

Coach: Jarrod Grassi (10).

Leagues: Vermont Division I, Marble Valley League.

Last Year: 9-7, lost to St. Johnsbury in first round.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Greg Shinn (P/INF/OF), Cameron Gaudette (SS), Nick Terino (OF), Justin Loseby (1B), Aaron Parker (OF); Juniors — Connor Brooks (2B), Steve Cerrone (P/INF/OF); Sophomores — Codi Smith (CF/P), Jacob Perkins (INF/OF/P).

Who’s New: Junior — Ryan Ferland (3B); Sophomore — Brandon Gaudet (C); Freshmen — Jordan Allard (P/3B), Dylan Spencer (P/2B).

Who’s Gone: Justin Devoid, Dylan Terino, Joe Sweeney, Pat Roberts, Steven Roswell.

Strengths: Versatility, athleticism.

Weaknesses: The Hurricanes need to be more disciplined on the basepaths and manufacture runs more efficiently than last season.

Players to Watch: “Everyone’s going to have to play well for us to be successful,” Grassi offered. “It’s all hands on deck.”

Toughest Opponents: Burr & Burton, Rutland, Mount Anthony, Lyndon, Otter Valley, U-32.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “This is a really tight-knit group, and I think the sky’s the limit with this group this year. We just have to remember to throw strikes and put the ball in play.”

Kearsarge

Coach:  Travis Pelletier   (2).

League: New Hampshire Division III.

Last Year: 6-10, missed playoffs.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Nick Bailey (OF/P), Cam Commerford (SS/P), Berkley Stevens (INF/P), James Scherer (OF/P), Andrew Ellis (OF), DJ Heiner (1B/3B), Christian DiDominic (INF/OF); Juniors — Ben Newbern (OF), James Bromwell (1B/ OF), Ryan Stanley (C).

Who’s New: Sophomore — Jake Vierzen (2B); Freshman — Mario Fusco (INF/P).

Who’s Gone: Brad Donnelly, Zachary Lobdell.

Strengths: Experience, with 10 returning lettermen.

Weakness: Hitting.

Players to Watch: “We have 12 guys that will see significant play,” said Pelletier, “so I would say anyone on a given day.”

Toughest Opponents: Stevens, Hopkinton, Conant.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “We gained a lot of experience last year. We’re expecting to compete with everyone, anytime we’re out on the field this year.”

Lebanon

Coach: Doug Ashey (21 overall; 14 at Lebanon).

League: New Hampshire Division II.

Last Year: 2-14, missed playoffs.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Austin Pelletier (2B), Grayson Hardy (P/INF); Juniors — Cam Broughton (P/INF), Joe Flanagan (OF), Noah Mayes (P/INF), Tanner Simms (C).

Who’s New: Seniors — Travis Hastings (OF),  Austin Putnam (INF); Juniors — Chase Dulac (P/OF), Ryan Kopecky (OF), Cam Rogers (C/P/DH), Dave Albright (P/1B/OF); Freshmen — Caleb Broughton (INF), Nate Gariepy (OF), Nate Perkins (OF/P).

Who’s Gone: Connor Greeley, Mike Servant, Ryan White, Walker Camp.

Strengths:  Work ethic, eagerness to learn.

Weakness:  Lack of varsity experience.

Players to Watch: “Keep an eye on all of them,” said Ashey.

Toughest Opponents: Hanover, Goffstown,  Portsmouth.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “This is a good group of young men. They will work hard to compete in a strong Division II. I believe we will improve throughout the season and could be a tough team to beat come tournament time.”

Mascoma

Coach: Guy Serviss (6).

League: New Hampshire Division III.

Last Year: 8-9, lost to Fall Mountain in first round.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Kyle Kosiorek (3B/P), Ethan Neily (C/P), Alex Brueckner (1B/OF); Junior — Walter Hammond (P/1B).

Who’s New: Junior — Bill O’Connell (INF/C); Sophomores — Oscar Brueckner (SS/P), Jordan Deford (INF/C), James Partridge (OF/P), Anthony Sperry (2B/OF), Noah Gooch (2B/OF); Freshman — Alex Schwarz (CF/P).

Who’s Gone: Adam Dutille, Spencer Pierce, Cam Braley.

Strength: Pitching. “Hammond and Kosiorek throw strikes and they will keep us in most games,” said Serviss.

Weakness: Lack of varsity experience, particularly at the plate.

Players to Watch: Hammond, Neily, Kosiorek, Schwarz.

Toughest Opponents: Stevens, Newfound, Newport.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “Our goals are to improve each day and win enough games to make the playoffs. If that happens , it could get interesting.”

Newport

Coach: Tim Spanos (1).

League: New Hampshire Division III.

Last Year: 8-9, lost to Monadnock in first round.

Who’s Back: Senior — Matt Bocko (2B/C/P); Juniors — Brady Bates (1B/P), Spencer Coronis (SS/P), Andrew Houde (P/SS), Taner Sherman (OF); Sophomores — Dawson Campbell (INF/C), CJ Lawrence (OF/P).

Who’s New: Seniors — Zach Brown (OF/C), Ricky Hammond (IF/OF), Tyler Robinson (P/C), Jason Teeter (INF/OF); Juniors — Matt Boone (OF), Damon Contois (OF/C), Jeff Quimby (C/P); Sophomore — Tyler Mahieu (IF/P); Freshman — Dylan McNamara (P/IF/OF).

Who’s Gone: Aaron Cherry (IF/P), Kyle Greene (DH/P), Dan Huot (OF), Austin Turner (C), Devin Wade (OF/1B). 

Strengths: Pitching, defense, athleticism, positive attitude. 

Weaknesses: Lack of pitching depth, offensive power and varsity experience.

Players to Watch: Houde, Coronis, Quimby, Bocko, Sherman, Lawrence, McNamara.

Toughest Opponents: “We have a killer schedule,” said Spanos. “Every game’s going to be tough.”

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “We are very talented, but the key is if we are going to be mentally tough. It’s going to boil down to making fewer mistakes (than opponents).”

Oxbow

Coach: Shawn French (16).

Leagues: Vermont Division II, Capital League.

Last Year: 10-6, lost to Poultney in quarterfinals. 

Who’s Back: Seniors — Quinten Mahikoa (C), Tyler Gillis (P/INF), Hunter Torrey (INF), Ethan Johnson (OF). Junior — Nate Smith (OF); Sophomores — Nick Grant (C), Eddie White (INF). 

Who’s New: Seniors — Scott Sydney (OF), Jonny Ratel (OF). Juniors — Dustin Doyle (OF), Dimitri Nanopoulus (OF). Freshman — Tristan Longmoore (INF).

Strength: Speed.

Weakness: Pitching experience. 

Player to Watch: Mahikoa.

Toughest Opponent: Harwood.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “We want to develop our pitching in time to make a good run in the playoffs. We’re going to have to pitch well.”

Rivendell

Coach: Eric Reichert (19).

Leagus: Vermont Division III, Central Vermont League

Last Year: 7-9, lost to Peoples in first round.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Scott Calhoun (P/CF), Nate Eastman (P/SS), Cole Stever (LF), Ethan Jayne (1B), Cody Williams (OF); Junior — Joey Wood (2B/OF).

Who’s New: Senior — Luke Bell (C/ INF); Junior — Dakota Floyd (OF); Freshmen — Chris Dunn (P/INF/OF), Phil Dunn (P/INF/OF), Colin Gould (C/INF/OF), Jacob Stimson (C/P/SS), Wyatt Suich (INF/OF).

Who’s Gone: Ryan Farnham, Shawn Farnham, Jason Daley, Logan Gardyne.

Strengths: Senior leadership, work ethic.

Weakness: The Raptors will have to be more aggressive at the plate this season.

Players to Watch: “I’ll be glad to watch all the players on this team,” Reichert offered, “especially if I’m watching them on the field rather than in the gym.”

Toughest Opponents: “We play some really talented teams,” Reichert said. “Each day’s opponent is the toughest we face.”

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “I have a lot of respect for the athletes on this team and my hope is that each player will work hard to improve his skills so that when tournament time rolls around, we’re ready to make some noise.”

South Royalton

Coach: Mike Ballou (2).

League: Vermont Division III, Central Vermont League.

Last Year: 17-1, D-IV state champions.    

Who’s Back: Seniors — David Ballou (SS), Nathan Moore (P/INF), Hunter Brock (OF), Alex Berk (C), Leif Johnson (P/1B); Juniors — Keanan Thompson (P /1B/OF), Darrin Kennedy (3B/P), Sam Berk (INF/OF).

Who’s New: Sophomores — Nils Rupprecht (OF), Kyle Spaulding (OF), Galen Ferris (OF), Robert Ingham (P/ OF), Chris Lucas (OF), Jon Benson (C/OF); Freshmen — Justin Brock (P/ INF), Stephen Paige (INF), Dalton McDougall (P/C/INF), Josh Scoskie (P/IN), Andy Moore (OF), Michael Hemond (1B/OF), Jayson Perron (OF), Nick Howe (OF).

Who’s Gone: Thomas Ingham, Darren Cilley, Troy Tracy, Damon Fulcher, Ian Kinnarney, Ben Vesper, Greg Post.

Strengths: Senior leadership, versatility.

Weaknesses: Like all Upper Valley teams, the Royals have had to settle for practicing indoors throughout preseason, limiting their chances to solidify positions.

Players to Watch: Ballou, Hunter Brock, Berk, Johnson, Thompson.

Toughest Opponents: Rivendell, Williamstown, Woodstock, Randolph.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “We will get better throughout the year. Our goal is to be playing our best baseball by the end of the year for tourney time.”

Stevens

Coach: Paul Silva (8).

League: New Hampshire Division III.

Last Year: 11-6, lost to Newfound in first round.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Caleb Beckley (P/IF), Donald Pellerin (OF), Ryan Tanguay (P/IF), Austin Tenney (OF); Juniors — Chase Hussey (IF/P), Bryar Rouillard (C/P/IF).

Who’s New: Seniors — Jordan Haines (1B/OF/P); Juniors — Brandon Bell (1B), Brandon Tanguay (OF), Tyler Woodman (IF/C/OF); Sophomores — Anthony Stithen (IF), Ryan Napsey (OF/P); Freshman — Richard Bell (IF/C), Coby Hussey (IF), Evan Spaulding (C/IF).

Who’s Gone: Logan Batchelder, Josh Carroll, Justin Corbett, Trey Dansereau, Shawn Fitzpatrick, Tyler Gaspar, Tyler Pederson, Mike Puksta.

Strengths: Pitching, speed, experience.

Weaknesses: The Cardinals’ offense must improve this season.

Players to Watch: Beckley, Pellerin, Tanguay, Tenney, Hussey, Rouillard.

Toughest Opponents: Fall Mountain, Kearsarge, Mascoma, Newport, Windsor, Monadnock.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “We have a very good group of returning players and most of our pitching returns. If we can pitch like we did last year we should be competitive. I have been pleased with our work ethic, especially since we’ve been inside so much.”

Thetford

Coach: Phil Chaput (3).

Leagues: Vermont Division III, Capital League.

Last Year: 4-10, lost to Poultney in first round.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Jordan Eastman (CF/SS/P), Colby Richardson (1B/OF), Henry Nichols (P/OF); Juniors — Nolan Howard (OF/P), Matt Sonnhalter (3B/P), Neil Howard (IF); Sophomores — Jack Sweet (2B/P), George Essex, (OF/P), Robby Root (1B), Finbar Curtin (C).

Who’s New: Seniors — Jeremy Bauer (IF/OF), Wyatt Ulman (OF), Freshmen — Connor Brown (IF/P), Jon Blakeney (IF/P/C), Erik Lindhal (OF/P), Noah Perry (OF/C), Dillon Piper (IF), Jonathan Hayes (OF).

Who’s Gone: Andrew Cawley, Aidan Cleaves.

Strength: Chemistry.

Weakness: Hitting at the bottom of the order.

Players to Watch: Eastman, Howard.

Toughest Opponents: “The Capital League schedule we have challenges us with quality teams all season,” said Chaput.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “As always, I am excited to start the season. I really like our team’s makeup this year. Our numbers have increased, and this will allow us to improve more during practice and experiment during games.”

Whitcomb

Coach: Les McIntyre (3).

Leagues: Vermont Division IV, Central Vermont League.

Last Year: 7-9, lost to Danville in quarterfinals.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Paul Fleming (IF), Anthony LaPlaca (2B/OF; attends Mid Vermont Christian), Scott Nickerson (P/OF), Bradford Allen (CF/P); Juniors — Sam Ennis (1B), Forrest Peront (C/P), Cody Snelling (P/IF), Hunter Paradis (P/U), Brian Schumann (P/OF/1B). Sophomore — Matt Townsend (SS/P).

Who’s New: Sophomores — Harry Allen (C/P/OF); Freshmen -- Nick Paradis (P/C/1B/OF), Wesley Allen (1B/OF), Isaac Hodgdon (P/OF).

Who’s Gone: Caleb Chase, Alex Messier, Tim Patch.

Strengths: Hitting ability, speed, depth.  

Weaknesses: Youth, difficult schedule.

Players to Watch: Fleming, Bradford Allen, Ennis.

Toughest Opponents: South Royalton, Blue Mountain.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “It’s going to be a good year. We’re looking to get going. We have a lot of supporters who feel we’ll do well this season, this coach included.”     

Windsor

Coach: Don Swinyer (19).

League: Vermont Division III, Marble Valley League.

Last Year: 6-12, lost to Leland & Gray in quarterfinals.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Tyson Boudro (P/SS), Ethan Hill (P/CF/1B), Matt Thayer (C), Kyle Cardillo (IF/OF); Juniors — Russell Simonds (CF/SS/P), Nick LeBeau (OF); Sophomores — Jacob Meagher (2B/OF), Nick Kapuscinski (1B/3B/P).

Who’s New: Sophomore — Josh Moore (3B/OF).

Who’s Gone: Shawn Pinsonault, Tanner Tibbets.

Strengths: Pitching, versatility, experience.

Weaknesses: The Yellowjackets lack depth and must improve their hitting.

Players to Watch: Hill, Boudro, Thayer.

Toughest Opponents: Rutland, Burr & Burton, Hartford, Bellows Falls, Otter Valley.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “We have an experienced pitching staff to keep us in every game. We need to improve on our offense to change close losses into wins. We play a very tough schedule, which should help us succeed in the D-III playoffs.”

Woodstock

Coach: Jason Tarleton (14).

Leagues: Vermont Division II, Marble Valley League.

Last Year: 6-11, lost to Lamoille in first round.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Dougie Avellino (SS), Sam Cole (CF), Zachary Cole (3B/P), Dylan Kuhn (2B/P), Conor Joyce (C/P), Matt Poljacik (LF/P), Bradley Lewis (1B); Juniors — Levi Vigh (OF), Dakota Merrill (1B/P).

Who’s New: Freshmen — Luc Issa (INF), Hunter Balch (C/OF).

Who’s Gone: Alex King, Jack Snyder.

Strengths: Hitting, pitching.

Players to Watch: Avellino, Zachary Cole, Sam Cole.

Toughest Opponents: Poultney, Windsor.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “I’m looking forward to seeing this team jell more as we get outside. Our goal is to compete and give ourselves chances to win every day.”

Woodsville

Coach: Brent Cox (1).

League: New Hampshire Division IV.

Last Year: 7-11, lost to Sunapee in quarterfinals.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Benjamin Fournier (3B), Dan Roy (C); Junior — Jason Fullerton (1B); Sophomores — Jacob Tetley (SS), Jaret Bemis (2B).

Who’s New: Senior — Kyle Boutin (P); Juniors — Zach Lamarre (OF), David Bazzell (OF); Sophomores — Jordan Clark (OF), Ty Brown (OF), Ty Hannett (OF).

Who’s Gone: Sam Wilson, Matt Abrams, Garrett Phelps, Andrew Coleman, Erva Barnes, Zac Catteral.

Strengths: Work ethic, chemistry.

Weakness: Lack of depth.

Players to Watch: Tetley, Fournier, Roy.

Toughest Opponents: Gorham, Littleton.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “We graduated a lot of seniors last year and there are a lot of eager players ready to step up. They have all worked hard to get ready for the season.”