Deering Rams Spring Sports Preview

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The Deering spring sports teams hope for great things. Baseball has been the state’s flagship program for over a decade and after falling short a year ago, has a great shot at winning yet another title behind a strong group of seniors. The softball squad has what it takes to make a run at the playoffs. Boys’ lacrosse could be in for the biggest jump. A winning record is a near certainty and a deep postseason run is a likelihood. The girls’ team has its eye on a .500 record and perhaps a run at a playoff spot. Boys’ outdoor track will rely on some new faces to stay competitive. The girls’ squad has many athletes who could turn heads at the biggest meets. Boys’ and girls’ tennis look to play into June as well.

BASEBALL

Coach: Mark Sutton (first year)

2010 Record: 13-5 (Lost 7-6 to Westbrook in Western Class A semifinals)

Top returning players: Anthony Balzano (Senior), Sam Balzano (Senior), Matt Bevilacqua (Senior), Nick Colucci (Senior), Devon Fitzgerald (Senior), John Hardy (Senior), Johnny Miranda (Senior), Jamie Ross (Senior), Nick DiBiase (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 23 @ South Portland, April 26 @ Biddeford, May 12 (H) PORTLAND, May 21 (H) WESTBROOK, May 24 @ Cheverus, May 26 @ Scarborough, May 31 (H) SOUTH PORTLAND

Coach’s comment: “We have seven seniors at starting positions. We’re a really talented team. Most of these guys won states as sophomores. They know how to win and what’s expected of them. We’re a seasoned team. Nothing seems to bother these guys. We have the pitching, defense, good speed and experience. It’s a matter of putting it all together at game time. My goal is to be there in the state finals. I think we have the team to do it.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: For the second time in three seasons, the state’s premier baseball program has a new coach. In 2009, Mike Coutts led Deering to a state title in his first year. Now, Sutton hopes to enjoy the Midas Touch. Sutton was a player at Cony High School and spent two years as Coutts’ assistant with the Rams. He inherits a veteran squad with big-time talent, which is hungry to regain the crown after falling short a year ago. The pitching staff will be as good as you’ll find in the Southern Maine Activities Association. Sam Balzano had three wins and a 2.75 earned run average a year ago. He’s joined by Ross (3.11 ERA, 25 strikeouts) and DiBiase (1.00 ERA in limited action), who’s battling his way back from an appendectomy. Anthony Balzano is also in the mix. Miranda (a second-team league all-star and member of the All-Rookie team a year ago) returns behind the plate. He’s also one of the team’s top hitters. Sam Balzano (Deering’s 2010 Spring Male Athlete of the Year) will be the offense’s sparkplug. He hit .396, scored 23 runs and stole 15 bases in 16 attempts during last year’s all-star, All-Defensive team campaign. Bevilacqua hits second in front of big boppers Colucci (.345, 12 RBI during a second-team all-star campaign last spring, he just signed to play at Boston College) and Ross (.306, six doubles, six RBI last season). DiBiase (All-Rookie team in 2010), Fitzgerald, Hardy and junior Jamie Gullbrand also look to produce key hits. The Rams appear to have all the pieces in place, but Westbrook and several other teams will be difficult to defeat. If Deering can stay healthy, it will be right there at the end. These seniors want to bow out with the program’s ninth championship in the past 13 seasons. Don’t bet against them.

SOFTBALL

Coach: Maggie Soule (third year)

2010 Record: 6-10 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Jennifer Lynch (Senior), Tina Merrill (Senior), Kaylee Wheeler (Senior), Sara Brink (Junior), Nicole Mason (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 23 @ Biddeford, April 25 (H) PORTLAND, April 27 @ South Portland, April 29 (H) CHEVERUS, May 4 (H) MCAULEY, May 9 (H) KENNEBUNK, May 18 @ Noble, May 26 (H) THORNTON ACADEMY, May 28 (H) SCARBOROUGH

Coach’s comment: “We have a lot of young talent to be developed this season, along with some seasoned veterans who are ready to take charge and get things done. I hope to accomplish a winning record, leading us to a playoff appearance. I would like my up-and-comers to get the experience they need to develop their skills and for my veterans to accomplish their goals for the season. The season will be a lot of fun and we’re all looking forward to getting on the field.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering saw its nine-year postseason run come to a halt last spring, but the Rams have the pieces in place to meet their goals of posting a winning mark and making the playoffs this season. Soule has plenty of pitching depth, starting with Wheeler, who threw 88 innings a year ago (and had a 4.88 earned run average). She’s joined by junior Crystal Archibauld, sophomore basketball standout Chelsea Saucier and freshman Isabel Daughty. Freshman Alexis Elowitch, an outstanding athlete, steps in at catcher. The offensive attack will be paced by Brink (who hit .333 in 2010), Lynch (.340) and Mason (.364). Merrill will look to provide some key hits as well. Senior utility player Becca Elowitch and freshman Lee Ann Downs (an outfielder) provide depth. While Deering won’t be in the class of defending state champion South Portland or perennial powerhouse Scarborough, the Rams should be well equipped to contend with just about everyone else. If the newer players can make a quick impact, the pitching is consistent and the offense produces up to its capability, Deering could be in for a winning season and a trip to the playoffs where it would be a very difficult out for anyone.

BOYS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Bob Rothbart (sixth year)

2010 Record: 7-6 (Lost 3-0 to Lewiston in Eastern Class A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Carleton Allen (Senior), Jake Farrell (Senior), Nick Horton (Senior), Cody Marcroft (Senior), Noah Whittenburg (Senior), Isaac Wipfler (Senior), A.J. Asbury (Junior), Matt Flaherty (Junior), Karl Rickett (Junior), Alex Stilphen (Junior), Brett Harmon (Sophomore),

Pivotal games: April 20 (H) THORNTON ACADEMY, April 23 (H) SOUTH PORTLAND, May 11 @ Kennebunk, May 21 (H) PORTLAND

Coach’s comment: “We have speed, an aggressive defense, great personnel. I’m very optimistic. We just have to stay healthy. We’ll score a lot of goals. Our schedule is easier this year, but Heal Points will be a question. I have at least three legitimate D1 prospects on this team. It’s potentially the best team I’ve had here.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: A year after making it to the playoffs after a two-year absence, but failing to score once it got there, Deering stands to be vastly improved this spring and if all goes well, could play deep into the postseason. Rothbart (who is joined by his son, Adam, Deering’s 2006 Spring Male Athlete of the Year, as an assistant this season) has plenty to be excited about. The Rams got an early dose of confidence by beating Cheverus and defending Eastern Class A champion Portland to win the preseason Casco Bay Cup (Deering’s first win over the rival Bulldogs in several seasons). The Rams might have the most explosive team in program history. Allen, a standout athlete, who won the 55 hurdles indoors, is healthy again and stands to be one of the finest players around. His 2010 season ended early with an injury, so he’s hungry to produce and win in his final go-round. Opposing teams will focus on slowing him down, but Deering has several players who can tickle the twine. That list includes attackmen Marcroft, Whittenburg and senior Zach Poulin, a transfer from Connecticut, who made an immediate splash with three goals in the Rams’ 10-4 season-opening win at Marshwood Thursday (Allen also scored three times in that victory). Flaherty is another player who can score. The midfield features veteran poise from Asbury and Wipfler. Harmon is another player to watch. On defense, Rickett (an SMAA first-team all-star in 2010) is as good as they come. He, Farrell and Stilphen, along with junior Ben Barlick and sophomore James Doyle, a transfer from Westbrook, will make like difficult for opposing attackers. Holton returns in goal. Poulin and Rickett will handle faceoff duty. The Rams have a very favorable schedule, which is a double-edged sword. While they’ll make a run at the program record of nine regular season wins (set four times, most recently in 2007), the lack of strong competition might hurt them in the Heal Points. Deering could boast a gaudy record by June, but have to go on the road for the playoffs. Regardless, this team, if it stays healthy and focused, is a legitimate title contender for the first time. The Rams will be very fun to watch in the weeks to come as they turn heads and potentially make history.

GIRLS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Andrew Gordon (seventh year)

2010 Record: 3-8-1 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Zahra Abu (Senior), Maddie Burns (Senior), Ania Chandler (Senior), Grace Kiffney (Senior), Vanessa Mao (Senior), Austin Lemoult (Junior), Delaney Loring (Junior), Veronica Mitchell (Junior), Stasia Muca (Junior), Maddie Ostwald (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 28 @ Kennebunk, May 2 (H) SCARBOROUGH, May 5 @ Cheverus, May 16 @ Portland, May 23 (H) SOUTH PORTLAND

Coach’s comment: “I hope that we can at least better our record of last year, although the playoffs may be beyond us. We have an almost totally new defense and a new goalie. We’re athletic with good speed. We were lucky to have a potential goal scorer transfer in. It’s a good group. It should be fun.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering has a very athletic roster and should improve on last year’s win total while being in contention for a playoff berth after falling short the past two seasons. The Rams have a big hole to fill in goal after the departure of Julie Pallozzi, who was a league all-star and Deering’s Spring Female Athlete of the Year last spring. Gordon has been encouraged by the early play of Pallozzi’s replacement, sophomore Lilly Worthley. The Rams’ defense features Chandler, Kiffney and Ostwald. At the midfield, Burns, Lemoult, Loring and Mitchell, along with four newcomers, senior Kayla Vachon (a transfer from Cony), junior Katie Donlan, sophomore Nyalet Bilieu and freshman Cole Spike, make for a strong contingent. Abu, Mao and Muca, along with Vachon, figure to do much of the scoring. Deering should be competitive in most of its games. If the Rams can gain some early confidence and mold in the newcomers with the returning athletes, they could be in the hunt for a trip to the playoffs.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Boys’ coach: Dick Kress (29th year)

Girls’ coach: Kevin Olson (third year)

2010 Results:

(Boys) No score @ Class A State Meet (tie-14th @ Southwesterns)

(Girls) 16th @ Class A State Meet

Top returning athletes:

(Girls) Amanda Masse (Senior), Aleeza Stearns (Senior), Ella Ramonas (Junior)

Top foes: Bonny Eagle, Scarborough, South Portland boys; Bonny Eagle, Scarborough, Thornton Academy girls

Coach Kress’ comment: “We have no top returners due to injuries or defections to other sports and our top three from last year graduated. The outdoor team will have a different look than indoor. We hope to improve individual performances, be competitive in the regular season and qualify individuals for the state meet. ”

Coach Olson’s comment: “I hope to be a competitive team in the league this season. We do not have a lot of depth, but the work ethic and motivation of the team is very high.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Both Deering teams hope to improve upon last year’s state meet showing.

The boys have no scorers returning as several key athletes have moved on to other sports. What the Rams do feature is promise in junior hurdler Tony Sen, junior thrower Brian White, sophomore hurdler Billy Farrell and freshman middle distance runner James Ociti. If other newer runners, jumpers and throwers can emerge, Deering should be able to hold its own in league competition and score some points in the postseason.

On the girls’ side, several strong athletes are in place to do solid things. Leading the way is Ramonas, the defending Class A state champion in the 800. She’s joined in the longer races by promising freshman Edie Pallozzi. The sprint contingent features Masse, along with sophomores Whitney Adell and Samantha Regios. Stearns is the top thrower. The Rams will enjoy plenty of individual success and should be one of the better teams in the SMAA. If all goes well in the postseason, they might be able to post their first top 10 states finish since 2001.

BOYS’ TENNIS

Coach: Regina Morton (second year)

2010 Results: 4-8 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Jesse Barkin (Senior), Nick Brown (Senior), Colby Kenny (Senior), Jesse Butler (Junior), Noah Finberg (Junior), Tyler Giroux (Junior), Dejan Varejic (Junior), Antonio Macomber (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: April 27 @ Cheverus, April 29 @ Bonny Eagle, May 2 (H) PORTLAND, May 6 @ Scarborough

Coach’s comment: “Jesse Butler should be a top contender in most matches. Noah Finberg will fight to win in all of his matches. He should have a strong season. We have a number of new players who are looking to get some experience and will be working for varsity spots in future years. We should make the playoffs this year and be one of the top four teams in the conference.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering’s 16-year run of playoff appearances came to an end last spring, but there are signs in place that the Rams will bounce back in 2011. Butler is back in the No. 1 singles position. He’ll hold his own against the best that the SMAA has to offer. Finberg also brings experience to the second singles spot. Varejic moves up from doubles to play third singles. Barkin, Brown, Giroux, Kenny and Macomber will vie for doubles positions. This is a season devoid of an overwhelming favorite in Western Class A, so a team like the Rams has the opportunity to make a big leap up the standings, win several more matches and not only return to the playoffs, but make some noise when they get there.

GIRLS’ TENNIS

Coach: Gus Goodwin (ninth year)

2010 Results: 8-5 (Lost 4-1 to McAuley in Western Class A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Siena Butterfield (Senior), Maria Smith-Lachman (Senior), Sarah Varney (Senior), Caitlin Very (Senior), Georgia Hutchins (Junior), Jackie Huynh (Junior)

Pivotal matches: May 2 @ Portland, May 6 (H) SCARBOROUGH, May 11 (H) MCAULEY, May 20 @ Gorham

Coach’s comment: “With the wacky weather this spring, we haven’t figured out our entire ladder yet. I do know that Georgia will be in the No. 1 spot. We have four seniors returning. This team has the tenacity and maturity to get back to states.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering made it to the regional or state final every year between 2001 and 2006 and got back to the regional final in 2008, but the last couple springs have seen the Rams eliminated in the quarterfinals. This year, Deering hopes to get back to the top. There’s a good nucleus of returning talent in place, suggesting this team could be in for a solid season. Hutchins will play first singles. She’s moved up from second doubles as a freshman and third singles a year ago. Huynh and Smith-Lachman were SMAA all-stars in doubles a year ago. They’ll be in line for key positions. Other returners to watch include Butterfield, Varney and Very. The Rams will look to make a run at the league’s top teams and have reason to think they can do so. This is a squad that could sneak up and be at the top by the end of May.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net and followed on Twitter @foresports

Junior Karl Rickett is recognized as one of the best defensive players around.

Senior Noah Whiitenburg is yet another potent scoring threat for the dangerous Deering boys’ lacrosse team.

Junior Matt Flaherty will do his share of scoring this lacrosse season.

Senior Carleton Allen returns from injury and will be one of the top boys’ lacrosse players around this spring. He and the Rams figure to be very good this season.

Senior third baseman Devon Fitzgerald is another Deering standout hoping to close his high school career with a title.

Jamie Ross returns for his final high school season before playing football in college. The three-sport star will be a force for the Rams at the plate and on the mound.

Junior Nick DiBiase will be active on the basepaths this season.

Junior Alex Stilphen provides defensive depth for the Rams.

Sidebar Elements


Senior Sam Balzano is one of the premier baseball players in the state, equally dominant on the mound, at the plate and on the basepaths. Balzano and his Deering teammates hope for another state championship this spring.

More photos below.

Deering Rams Spring Schedules

(See deering.portlandschools.org/athletics/athleticsindex.htm for updated game times)

BASEBALL

Sat., April 23 @ SP

Tues., April 26 @ Biddeford

Thurs., April 28 H KENNEBUNK

Sat., April 30 H BONNY EAGLE

Tues., May 3 @ Massabesic

Thurs., May 5 H SANFORD

Tues., May 10 @ Noble

Thurs., May 12 H PORTLAND

Sat., May 14 H WINDHAM

Tues., May 17 @ TA

Thurs., May 19 @ Gorham

Sat., May 21 H WESTBROOK

Tues., May 24 @ Cheverus

Thurs., May 26 @ Scarborough

Sat., May 28 H MARSHWOOD

Tues., May 31 H SP

SOFTBALL

Sat., April 23 @ Biddeford

Mon., April 25 H PORTLAND

Wed., April 27 @ SP

Fri., April 29 H CHEVERUS

Mon., May 2 @ Bonny Eagle

Wed., May 4 H MCAULEY

Fri., May 6 @ Sanford

Mon., May 9 H KENNEBUNK

Fri., May 13 @ Westbrook

Mon., May 16 H WINDHAM

Wed., May 18 @ Noble

Fri., May 20 H MARSHWOOD

Mon., May 23 @ Gorham

Thurs., May 26 H TA

Sat., May 28 H SCARBOROUGH

BOYS’ LACROSSE

Thurs., April 14 @ Marshwood

Wed., April 20 H TA

Sat., April 23 H SP

Fri., April 29 H CONY

Wed., May 4 @ Westbrook

Fri., May 6 @ Biddeford

Wed., May 11 @ Kennebunk

Thurs., May 12 @ Morse

Wed., May 18 H MASSABESIC

Sat., May 21 H PORTLAND

Wed., May 25 H GORHAM

Wed., June 1 @ Bonny Eagle

GIRLS’ LACROSSE

Mon., April 25 @ Windham

Thurs., April 28 @ Kennebunk

Sat., April 30 H MARANACOOK

Mon., May 2 H SCARBOROUGH

Thurs., May 5 @ Cheverus

Mon., May 9 @ Biddeford

Thurs., May 12 H WESTBROOK

Sat., May 14 @ Gardiner

Mon., May 16 @ Portland

Thurs., May 19 H BONNY EAGLE

Mon., May 23 H SP

Mon., May 30 H MASSABESIC

BOYS’ OUTDOOR TRACK

Mon., April 25 @ Scarborough

Tues., May 3 H CHEV, PORT, SP

Fri., May 6 @ Westbrook

Wed., May 11 @ Bonny Eagle

Tues., May 17 @ Kennebunk

Fri., May 20 @ Scarborough

Sat., May 28 Southwesterns

Sat., June 4 CLASS A STATE MEET

GIRLS’ OUTDOOR TRACK

Tues., April 26 @ Kennebunk

Mon., May 2 @ Cheverus (McA, Port, SP)

Wed., May 11 @ Bonny Eagle

Tues., May 17 @ Kennebunk

Fri., May 20 @ Scarborough

Sat., May 28 @ Southwesterns

Sat., June 4 CLASS A STATE MEET

BOYS’ TENNIS

Mon., April 25 H SP

Wed., April 27 @ Cheverus

Fri., April 29 @ Bonny Eagle

Mon., May 2 H PORTLAND

Wed,. May 4 H TA

Fri., May 6 @ Scarborough

Mon., May 9 H WESTBROOK

Fri., May 13 @ Sanford

Mon., May 16 H MARSHWOOD

Wed., May 18 @ Kennebunk

Fri., May 20 H GORHAM

Mon., May 23 @ Biddeford

GIRLS’ TENNIS

Mon., April 25 @ SP

Fri., April 29 H BONNY EAGLE

Mon., May 2 @ Portland

Wed., May 4 @ TA

Fri., May 6 H SCARBOROUGH

Mon., May 9 @ Westbrook

Wed., May 11 H MCAULEY

Fri., May 13 H SANFORD

Mon., May 16 @ Marshwood

Wed., May 18 H KENNEBUNK

Fri., May 20 @ Gorham

Mon., May 23 H BIDDEFORD

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.