Deering Rams Spring Sports Preview

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Senior Dominick Bernard is the engine who will make Deering’s baseball team go this spring. Bernard led the league in hitting a year ago, plays centerfield and is aggressive on the basepaths. The Rams look to build on last year’s success.

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BASEBALL

Coach: Josh Stowell (second year)

2015 record: 11-7 (Lost, 4-3, to Portland in Western A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Dominick Bernard (Senior), Luciano Minervino (Senior), Pat Viola (Senior), Colby Dame (Junior), Orey Dutton (Junior), James Sinclair (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 21 THORNTON ACADEMY, May 10 SCARBOROUGH, May 12 @ South Portland, May 19 @ Portland, May 20 CHEVERUS

Coach’s comment: “We’re getting things going. Everyone’s healthy. Ideally, we’ll replicate and build on last year. We have a lot of returning players. Our younger players gained experience and confidence last year. Learning to win last year was pivotal. It’s going to be a wide-open league again. The guys are hungry. We were happy with last year, but not satisfied because of how we finished.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering awakened the echoes last spring, reaching back into its storied past for a coach who got the most out of an untested team. The Rams turned heads from start to finish, but the sting of letting a three-run lead slip away in an agonizing playoff loss to their fiercest rival hasn’t quite gone away. If Deering can channel last June’s heartbreak into hunger this season, the Rams might go deep into the postseason.

The offense will be paced by Bernard, who was the SMAA batting champion (.457) a year ago. Bernard, a first-team league all-star a year ago, also boasts speed (three triples and 12 steals in 14 attempts) and will play centerfield (he was also named to the SMAA All-Defensive team). Dutton (who hit .350 as the designated hitter during a first-team all-star campaign in 2015) is a utilityman this season. Stowell wants to get his bat in the lineup by any means necessary. Other potential top hitters include second baseman Viola (.306 with 10 runs batted in during a second-team all-star and All-Defensive team campaign last spring) and Sinclair (seven RBI last season).

Sinclair (2-1, 4.52 earned run average in 2015) and the southpaw Dame (2-3, 4.67 ERA) are the top pitchers. Juniors Riley Bartell and Spencer Todd will also see some time on the hill. Minervino (10 RBI last season) will be behind the plate and senior Max Chabot will fill in different spots.

Deering won’t sneak up on anyone this year and the Rams do have some holes to fill after key departures, but now that this program has returned to its winning ways, expect the triumph to continue. Class A South is littered with talented teams, but Deering should be able to compete with everyone. Don’t be surprised if this year’s team enjoys an even longer playoff stay.

SOFTBALL

Coach: Anthony DiBiase (second year)

2015 record: 2-14 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Cassidy Coyne (Senior), Siobhan Densmore (Senior), Kaytlin DiBiase (Senior), Sydney Giroux (Junior), Kaylee Helmick (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 25 @ Gorham, April 29 @ Noble, May 2 @ Cheverus, May 11 PORTLAND, May 16 @ South Portland, May 20 PORTLAND, May 27 MCAULEY

Coach’s comment: “One of my goals when I was hired was to bring softball back to Deering. Four years ago, when I was the assistant coach, we had 14 total athletes. We have built this program up to 30 athletes. With all the work these young ladies have put in, we’re on the right path. We have a great mix of all classes. We welcomed a big freshmen class and they’re eager to play. As long as we stay focused and take it one pitch at a time and one out at a time, we should be fine. I feel our bats will bring us home. We need to play aggressively and with confidence. We’re excited for the season to get under way.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: After winning just one game total from 2012-14, Deering won a pair a year ago and was much more competitive, suggesting that the Rams are on the verge of being a real factor this spring.

DiBiase, a left-hander, and Helmick, a righty, will see the majority of time on the mound. Freshman Mackenzie O’Donnell could also see some innings and will also catch, as will Giroux. The infield is solid with the experienced Coyne and Densmore on the right side and Giroux, Helmick, O’Donnell and freshman Maddy Broda seeing time on the left side. DiBiase will anchor the outfield when she dosen’t pitch.

A year ago, Deering learned how to compete. This season, the Rams expect to improve on their win total. The playoffs loom as a possibility if all goes well. Whatever happens in the weeks to come, expect this program to continue to grow and improve going forward.

BOYS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Jon Dubois (fifth year, 23-31 overall record)

2015 record: 4-9 (Lost, 17-7, to Messalonskee in Eastern A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Riley Haines (Senior), Ryan Hazelton (Senior), Max Hornblower (Senior), Andrew Johnson (Senior), Nate Richards (Junior), Bryce Randall (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 22 WESTBROOK, April 26 @ Cheverus, May 3 PORTLAND, May 27 @ Windham

Coach’s comment: “I’m happy with the guys. We have a lot of juniors and seniors who are getting their chance to shine. We have our top scorer and defender back. We want to be .500 or better and beat our city rivals, like every year. We also want to get back to the playoffs.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: After missing the playoffs in 2014, Deering got back there last season and this spring, the Rams are hoping to post an even better regular season record and win a playoff game or two.

Hazelton will take faceoffs and try to secure possession. On offense, the Rams will look to Johnson, Randall and honorable mention all-star Richards to tickle the twine. Senior Riley Haines will join Hazelton in the midfield. Defensively, Hornblower, a second-team league all-star in 2015, will set the tone in front of new goalie, junior Tanner Nussinow.

Deering has a daunting schedule, but should steadily improve over the course of the season. If the Rams can stay healthy and some younger players develop as hoped, the season should be a successful one.

GIRLS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Aimee Burgos (second year)

2015 record: 2-10 (no playoffs)

Top returning players: Emily Krabbe (Senior), Anna Thach (Senior), Micary Verville (Senior), Megan Violette (Senior), Luci Santerre (Junior)

Pivotal games: May 5 CHEVERUS, May 10 MASSABESIC, May 12 WINDHAM, May 19 @ South Portland, May 24 @ McAuley, May 26 SANFORD, May 31 @ Portland

Coach’s comment: “Preseason gave us three weeks to perfect our skills, solidify plays and gain the confidence in each other as teammates to go out there each game and play as a team. We’re learning how to effectively communicate with each other. I have some amazing seniors this year who I believe will be great leaders, on and off the field. With a strong goalie and our field players who continue to surprise me each day, I have a great feeling about this season.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering has reason for optimism this season. The Rams feature some standout athletes and some new players ready to step right in and make an impact.

Verville will play a huge role, taking draws, possessing the ball, setting up teammates and scoring some goals herself. Violette projects to be a top scorer. She’s a matchup nightmare due to her speed. Krabbe and Santerre also figure to tickle the twine on a regular basis. Defensively, Thach is a top returner. She’ll help ease the transition for junior Sophia Borie, a transfer from McAuley, and junior Lillian Frager (the field hockey goalie), who step in between the pipes. Freshmen Alli Donovan and Gabby Taliento will play key roles on the team as well.

The Rams last posted a winning record in 2007 and last made the playoffs in 2008. This year’s team has the ability to climb back into contention. Don’t be surprised if Deering is knocking at the playoff door by the end of the season. This is a program poised to take a quantum leap.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Boys’ coach: Gerry Myatt (fourth year)

Girls’ coaches: Kevin Campbell and Kevin Olson (third year)

2015 results:

(Boys) Tie-8th @ Class A state meet

(Girls) Tie-22nd @ Class A state meet

Top returning athletes:

(Boys) Abdi Hassan (Senior), Paolo DeMarco (Senior), Jouya Mahmoudi (Senior), Ezra Chapola (Junior)

(Girls) Neilab Habibzai (Senior), Annah Rossvall (Sophomore), Nicole Whipkey (Sophomore)

Coach Myatt’s comment: “We have some good kids coming back. We hope to score in most events. There are a lot of events to cover. We hope to be in the top 10 again.”

Coach Campbell’s comment: “We hope to develop our young distance and sprint squads to be formidable for the championship season.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Both Deering outdoor track teams will be heard from in the weeks to come.

The boys are paced by Winter Male Athlete of the Year DeMarco, who won the 300 hurdles and placed sixth in the 110 hurdles last spring. DeMarco is looking to win multiple state crowns this season and can’t be overlooked. Chapola joined DeMarco on a fourth-place 4×400 relay team a year ago. He’ll be a top jumper this season. Hassan leads the distance contingent. Juniors Gabe Luka and Hisham Ramadan take part in the middle distance. Senior Jabari Washington and freshman Songha Loth are the top scoring threats in the sprints. Sophomores Wilder Baldwin and Yahya Nure will compete in the distance events and freshman Alec Troxell is a middle distance runner to watch. On the field side, Mahmoudi and sophomore Kubah Muka are throwers. Juniors Roman Anderson and Mason Kaserman join Chapola in the jumps. The Rams will be very strong in the conference season and should be in the mix for another solid showing at states. Don’t be surprised if DeMarco leads this team into the top five.

On the girls’ side, two state meet scorers return. Whipkey came in fifth in the 800 as a freshman and is looking to move up. Habibzai came in fifth in the discus and could be one of the better throwers in the league. Rossvall is coming off a strong indoor season, which saw her score in the 400. Sophomore Lucy Tumavicus and freshman Grace Tumavicus are top distance threats. Senior Lili Kien, who has been a solid indoor track contributor, is coming over to outdoor track from lacrosse and will look to score in the jumps. Deering has enough talent to compete all season and to move up at the state meet.

BOYS’ TENNIS

Coach: Regina Morton (seventh year)

2015 results: 10-3 (Lost, 3-2, to Windham in Western A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Marshall Abbott (Senior), Isaac Finberg (Senior), Victor Graviss (Senior), Greg Levinsky (Senior), Will Weeks (Senior), Conor Doane (Junior)

Pivotal matches: April 27 THORNTON ACADEMY, May 4 CHEVERUS, May 18 PORTLAND, May 20 @ Scarborough

Coach’s comment: “I think we’ll be in the top five in the league.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering has won 24 combined matches the past two seasons, but last year’s early playoff ouster stung. This year’s team should again be one of the last standing and could make a run at the regional title.

Doane was a first-team league all-star in 2015. He returns as one of three veteran singles players, along with Finberg and Weeks. The loss of all-star doubles players Kelvin Huynh and Jason Thach will be felt, but Abbott, Graviss and Levinsky will step in nicely. Several newcomers, including junior Joel Kahn and freshmen Yoni Kahn, Logan Morrione, Fluery Ngabonziza and Elliot Weeks, are also battling for spots and provide depth.

The Rams have been as consistent as anyone of late and while two-time Class A champion Falmouth still looms in the playoffs and Thornton Academy and other league foes will be tough, Deering should again boast an impressive record. This time, don’t be surprised if the Rams make a deep playoff run.

GIRLS’ TENNIS

Coach: Stephanie Doane (fifth year)

2015 results: 5-9 (Lost, 5-0, to eventual state champion Falmouth in Western A quarterfinals)

Top returning player: Maddie Abbott (Senior), Priscilla Maccario (Senior), Liva Pierce (Senior), Monica Sok (Senior), Kerry Wells (Senior), Leinani Farnsworth (Junior), Ally Green (Junior)

Pivotal matches: May 4 @ Cheverus, May 18 @ Portland, May 20 MCAULEY

Coach’s comment: “Our entire team is returning and we’ve added Meghana Clere, so we’re really looking good.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering is primed to climb up the standings this spring.

Abbott was a second-team league all-star and Deering’s Spring Female Athlete of the Year a year ago. She’ll play singles, along with Maccario and Pierce. Farnsworth, Green, Sok and Wells are in the doubles mix. Clere figures to see her share of playing time too.

Class A South appears wide-open this season, so the Rams have a chance to not only boast a winning record, but to make a deep playoff run as well. Don’t be surprised if this squad is one of the last teams standing.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Lefthanded pitcher Colby Dame looks to make life difficult for opposing hitters this spring.

Junior Orey Dutton is coming off a .350 campaign which earned him mention on the SMAA all-star team.

Senior Pat Viola is a sure-handed infielder for the Rams.

Junior James Sinclair is a key contributor in the field and on the mound.

Catcher Luciano Minervino had 10 RBIs last spring.

Junior Kaylee Helmick’s arm hopes to lead the Deering softball team into contention.

Senior Siobhan Densmore will be in the middle of the action this season.

Senior Max Hornblower is an imposing figure on defense for a Deering boys’ lacrosse team looking to return to the playoffs.

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