There will be a lot of familiar faces filling out the diamonds in Division IV this season. Each of the top contenders returns at least five starters from a year ago, giving the division the look of a wide-open race.
“ Quality pitching across the division stands out the most to me,” said Littleton head coach AJ Bray. “There have been a lot of seasons where if you got a team’s #2 pitcher, you knew you had a chance to score some runs. That’s not the case this season.”
“ There will be some of the same teams at the top of the division, but as the playoffs proved a year ago, you can get beat any time you go out there,” said Colebrook head coach Tim Purrington. “I see a lot of good baseball teams that can win it.”
Today in our second of four baseball previews, we break down Division IV.
Our preview is brought to you by our longtime friends and partners at White Mountains Community College, with locations in Berlin, Littleton, and North Conway!
Pre-Season Top 10
Lurking outside the Top 10: Wilton-Lyndeborough, Pittsfield, Groveton, Portsmouth Christian
There wasn't a head coach I spoke to who didn't express his excitement for the start of the regular season, but Derryfield's Drew Hill may be geared up for opening day to a level other coaches can’t match.
The Cougars rolled through the regular season a year ago, earning a first-round bye into the quarterfinals.
There, they were stunned by Wilton-Lyndeborough and eliminated from the playoffs.
Hill and his team, which returns six starters, have been waiting to get back on the field ever since.
"Obviously a very disappointing loss, but it's baseball. It only takes one game to end a season, and things just did not go our way that day," said Hill.
"It's a new season, and we don't talk about last year. It's about getting better by the week and competing for a title. I really like the group we have."
The Cougars will be right back in the title chase again behind a very deep pitching rotation led by John McDevitt, Alex Comire, Alex Drake. Casey Peters and Zach Martin.
"Pitching will certainly be a strength of ours. John is a terrific leader and is set to have a big season for us both on the mound and at the plate."
McDeviit will play third base when he isn't pitching, while Comire will play shortstop, Drake first base, and Martin will move between the infield and outfield.
"Across the board, we have a lot of confidence in this group," said Hill.
Mitch Regan will play catcher, with Rachel Irving backing him up. Regan is a considerable part of the Cougars' optimism that they can take the next step this season. "Mitch is a terrific hitter and someone we can play at multiple positions," said Hill.
"I have a ton of confidence in him."
He will be joined in the lineup by Jack Stewart and Owen Clemons.
"We are looking for utility players that can fill several positions. That's been a focus here in the pre-season," said Hill.
With six starters back, as much pitching depth as any team in the division, and a sizeable chip on their shoulder, Derryfield will be a very tough out when we get to June.
"The kids have been working very hard and can't wait to get back out on the field."
The Gorham Huskies lost in the semifinals a year ago to eventual champion Sunapee. With eight starters back, the long road to a rematch begins in April.
"I wouldn't say it's a topic of discussion, but we certainly have a goal of winning a championship this season," said Huskies head coach Pete Girouard.
The Huskies should be back in the mix again behind solid pitching, hitting, and enough depth to be the last team standing in June.
"It's a really fun group to work with every day," said Girouard. "It's about doing the little things that win you games, and that is our day-to-day focus."
Chase Carder, Landyn Croteau, Jack Saladino, and Isaac Langlois all will contribute on the mound and in the field after being key contributors a year ago. "If we can pitch like we are capable of, it should be an area of strength for us," said Girouard.
"This is a group that has played together for years. They've put in the work to be considered a contender."
Catcher Anthony Pizzuto is a three-year starter and a key to the Huskies' rotation.
Brendan Saladino will play center field. Jack Saladino will play second base and be joined in the infield by Langlois at third base, Chase Carder, and Landon Croteau.
Starting shortstop Kody Lemieux is a huge part of Gorham's title aspirations, but still battling an upper-body injury suffered during soccer season.
"He's going to DH at first, and we hope to work him back into the infield rotation, but right now, it's about his health and what he can contribute," said Girouard.
"He's a terrific player, and not having him out there will be a blow to us, but we have the depth to move forward. I hope he can play all season for us in some capacity."
The Huskies have as much hitting ability up and down the lineup as any team in the division to go along with pitching depth and experience. All the pieces are in place for another run.
"Woodsville is a very good team, Littleton is always tough, and Tim does a great job with Colebrook; they will be in the mix along with several other teams."
"These kids love competing, and we are excited to start the season."
The Sunapee Lakers have enough pitching to win back-to-back Division IV titles; the question for Tom Frederick’s team will be, how do you replace five key hitters in the lineup?
“ I have a lot of confidence in our pitching. We have players back who have performed in big games; the focus for us is on the role players from a year ago stepping up into more significant roles.”
Finn Flint, Jon Roth, and Sammy Flint will all see considerable time on the hill for the champs.
Finn Flint balances good control with several different pitches, his head coach describes Roth as a very smart pitcher who mixes his pitches well, and Sammy Flint has excellent control and consistently throws strikes.
“ There is a lot of talent on this team, but the aspect that stands out the most is the work ethic. These guys have been doing conditioning drills and working over the winter to improve. This is a very hard-working group,” said Frederick.
Roth will see time behind the plate and platoon with Ian McNally at catcher.
Second baseman Jonah Flint (three Flint brothers/cousins on the team if you are scoring at home) will again be one of the team’s best hitters and will be joined by Sammy Flint at shortstop and Brock Kangos.
The outfield graduated all three starters from a year ago, and jobs were still being competed for in the pre-season—a theme of Frederick’s pre-season camp.
“ There has been a lot of competition for starting jobs in the pre-season, which has created some very good practices. Players know they have an opportunity to earn their playing time,” said Frederick.
The Lakers will be in the mix again as the pitching likely carries them early, and the hitting warms up with the weather.
“ I love this group. They are great kids, and the effort level has been tremendous,” said Frederick. “ They are excited to get started.”
Pitching will also be the strength of the Woodsvile Engineers, who have as much depth at the position as any team in the division.
"Our pitching and the number of quality players we can give the ball to is going to be a strength for us against a difficult schedule," said head coach Brent Cox.
Mike Hogan and Jack Boudreault return to the Engineers rotation along with Jackson Horne, who missed all of last season with an injury. "Getting Jackson back only gives us more depth," said Cox. "It's given us a big boost."
"Mike Hogan has looked very good for us in the pre-season. He's set to have a strong season for us."
Jacob Putnam and Landon Kingsbury will also see time on the hill. Joining them in the battery is catcher Jaden Green.
Cam Davidson returns at first base and will be joined in the lineup by freshman Ryan Walker.
Horne will lead the top of the Engineers' lineup alongside Putnam, Hogan, Boudreault, and Davidson. "We feel like the middle of our order will produce for us," said Cox.
"If we can get good defense to back up our pitching, we should be in the mix again."
Ryan Neuendorff takes over at Mascenic Regional after moving to the area from Texas, giving the newest team in the division a different look heading into the 2023 season.
“ It’s been a lot of fun getting to know the kids,” said Neuendorff. “ It’s a great group, and they love the game. Right now, the focus is on coming together as a unit.”
Joe Cocozella returns to the mound and will be joined on the hill by a deep pitching staff that includes Ryan O’Shea, Lucas Leroux, and Isaiah Blaise.
Leroux will also play shortstop, while O’Shea will man left field. “ Ryan is one of our better hitters, “ said Neuendorff. “ We should be productive in the middle of the order.”
Casey Brox and Cocozella will all step in and produce right away, along with a talented freshman class that includes catcher Ronan Vautour, Brady Kivela (“He is going to be very good defensively for us.”) and outfielder Charlie Phillips.
“Error-free baseball is how you win games, so our defense has certainly been a focus here in the pre-season,” said Neuendorff. “That and getting the younger players up to speed with the varsity level because we are going to need contributions from everyone.”
“ We have looked good so far, and I’m excited to watch them compete.”
Littleton head coach AJ Bray enters his tenth season as the Crusaders head coach with a team returning a strong nucleus after dropping an extra inning game to Newmarket in last season’s quarterfinals.
“ We have seven starters back, so that experience will be a strength of ours,” said Bray. “ You can say that about a lot of teams in the North Country. There won’t be many easy games, so our pitching depth will be key.”
J.P Perez features a three-quarter release, and enough arm strength to give opposing hitters fits. He will be joined on the mound by Ross Kelly and Blake Fillion.
“J.P. has good arm strength,” said Bray. “ Ross has gotten bigger and stronger. He’s shown good control and will make an impact for us.”
Lefty Reece Cook will see time on the mound as well.
Fillion will play shortstop when he is not on the mound and may be the Crusaders' best hitter.
“He’s a very good player and is only getting better. He is set to have a big season for us.”
Kyle Fuentes and Cam Cook will see time behind the plate (“It’s always key to have depth at catcher,” said Bray) while Juan Hernandez gives Littleton another big bat in the lineup.
“We know what we are getting from our returning guys, and I’m excited about our potential as a team,” said Bray. “ Like most Division IV coaches will tell you, it comes down to building depth, becoming good defensively, and not giving up a lot of baserunners.”
“ Teams like Gorham, Colebrook, and Woodsville are very good, so we have to be ready to compete at a high level.”
For Mike Donnell's Epping Blue Devils, it's about taking the next step in a division full of returning standouts.
Epping returns six starters from a quarterfinal team but will still rely on underclassmen throughout the lineup. "We were very young a year ago, and that hasn't changed," said Donnell. "How players progress from playing as a sophomore to contributing as a junior will tell you a lot about the kind of season we will have."
"We have a group that can win double-digit games, and I think we can be a very tough out in the playoffs once again."
Nate Gallant, who quarterbacked the football team in the fall, will lead the Blue Devils on the mound and at the plate. "Nate throws the ball hard and has better command this season," said Donnell. "He just continuously improves his game."
Gallant will be joined on the mound by Dylan Cummings and Dylan Dulong and in the battery by catcher Robbie Bizzaro who has had a strong pre-season. "We like the depth we have at pitcher, and I have been very encouraged by Robbie's progress and improvement," said Donnell.
Aaron Wyatt will start at first base while second basemen, sophomore Grayson Davisy, joins him on the right side of the infield.
Dylan Cummings will play at shortstop when he is not on the mound, while Gallant will do the same at third base. "We are going to hit. The area we need to improve is our defense," said Donnell.
Brendon Follansbee will provide another big bat in a lineup, including talented center fielder Daniel Ciriello.
"This is a deep division, and although we have a lot of returning starters, so do a lot of the contenders. Our focus is on getting out of the gate strong and improving every week," said Donnell.
"This group has a chance to be very good by the end of the regular season, and they're excited to compete."
The Colebrook Mohawks were a quarterfinal team a year ago, and with eight starters back, it's about taking the next step in a loaded division. "We have a lot coming back and some players who love the game and really dedicate their time to getting better over the summer," said Purrington.
"We feel good about this group, but as is the case with a lot of teams in our division, we are going to depend on some freshmen and sophomores stepping into pretty big roles."
Kolten Dowse returns to the mound for the Mohawks and will play at both shortstop and catcher when he isn't pitching.
His older brother Kaiden Dowse is a very good centerfielder and will contribute at the plate.
"You build your teams defensively up the middle, and so Kaiden & Kolten play vital roles for us there," said Purington.
"Kolten has a very live arm and is a very good hitter for us. He needs to let the game come to him and roll with the punches. When he is dialed in and tuning out distractions, He's an excellent player for us."
Senior Liam Shaw will join Dowse in the rotation, giving Purrington an experienced performer on the mound to go with Dowse.
"Liam is a very good pitcher and came up big for us in the playoffs last year in a win over Pittsfield. He has good control and is a reliable performer for us."
Sophomore Dylan Defree will contribute behind the plate and at it, while Jack Cyler will start for the Mohawks at first base.
"We'll go as our upperclassmen go, and it's a solid group," said Purrington. "Kolten, Liam, and Kaiden all played Legion baseball last season, and you can see each has improved."
"The North Country has some strong teams, and we are in that mix. How we field and our ability to throw strikes will be keys to our success this season."
The Newmarket Mules battled through injuries to get back to the Division IV championship game for a second straight season before a shutout loss to Sunapee.
In 2023 they're going to have to do it again, as new players will have to step into more prominent roles. "We had ten of our fifteen players last season pitch at some point during the season," said head coach Stan Jurkoic. "We'll need everyone pitching in again this year."
Talented sophomore Graham Willerer will miss time with an injury at the beginning of the season. Still, the Mules should have another solid rotation led by Nick Nigro, Cam Moran, and Jack Schlieder.
Moran will see time at catcher when he isn't on the mound, while Nigro will start at shortstop.
"Cam has been a very good hitter for us, and we feel confident in the players we have coming back," said Jurkoic. "There is an opportunity to step in and play a bigger role this season, and players are working hard to earn at-bats."
Parker Sweitzer will step into a more prominent role this season for the Mules, along with Sean Vincent.
All-state performer Cooper Mills is out with an injury suffered during soccer season, joining Willerer on the sidelines. "Cooper is a big loss. He's an excellent player," said Jurkoic. "Our focus is on getting better every day as a team."
"With lower numbers this season, we have a couple of eighth graders on the roster. Everyone is going to have to step up and contribute," said Jurkoic.
With seven starters back, Hinsdale joins the list of teams who want to take the next step after a close playoff defeat a year ago.
"We went down to (eventual runner-up) Newmarket and lost 1-0 in the first round," said head coach Sam Kilelee. "The kids battled all day. When the pre-season began, we talked about our goal of hosting a playoff game. That hasn't happened here in a long time, but we feel we have the group to make it happen."
The Pacers return their top two pitchers from a year ago; Brayden Eastman and Aiden Davis. If you want to earn a top 8-seed and a home playoff game, having two reliable starting pitchers is a good way to get there.
"Brayden and Aiden pitched in every game we played last season," said Kilee. "Aiden didn't give up a run to Newmarket after the first inning in the playoffs, and I believe that experience will help our entire team."
Noah Pangelinan will move from the outfield to behind the plate at catcher, while Johnny Winter will play second base alongside talented freshman Trace Tetreault. "Trace has shown his potential here in the pre-season, said Kilelee. "He will help us right away."
Aiden Davis and Josh Southwick will lead the offense, while sophomore Ryan Sweetser has emerged as a team leader for the underclassman. "Like any Division IV program, we have a lot of young players. Parker has really helped them adjust to the varsity game."
"We are going to need to manage the bottom of our lineup and manufacture runs," said Kilelee.
"There is enough pitching and experience to be a competitive team. How the younger players step into more prominent roles will be a key for us."
With freshmen making up over one-third of Groveton’s roster, it’s about building for the future on head coach David Blanco’s team. Still, after barely missing out on the playoffs a year ago, the Eagles expect to join the post-season party this time around.
“ We were the last team not to get in a year ago,” said Blanco, who enters his third season as head coach. “ We have already discussed as a team that we want to be there this season. I feel like we have a team capable of qualifying.”
Aiden Whiting returns to the team after missing last season due to an injury. Whiting, Kaden Cloutier, Connor Shannen, and Evan Blanco will see time in the pitching rotation.
“ Getting Aiden back has given us a lift, as he is one of only two seniors on the roster,” said Blanco. “ Connor moved over from Lisbon and has really been solid here in the pre-season.”
Sophomore third baseman Brody Platt and fellow sophomore Dylan Simco look poised for breakout seasons, while Cloutier, Brockton Menieur, and Shannon should produce in the middle of the lineup.
“ We have a good sophomore group. If those players can produce in bigger roles this season, we can be a better team than we were a year ago.”
One of those sophomores is lefty Ashton Kenison, who will get an opportunity to play and pitch right away. “ He’s been one of the pleasant surprises of the pre-season,” said Blanco.
Marcus Pelletier has also had a strong pre-season as the Eagles, like almost all the north country teams, the transition from the gym to the field.
“ It’s going to take us a little time to adjust, but so does every team on our schedule,” said Blanco. “ There are a lot of tough teams on our schedule, so we have to be ready from Day 1 to compete.”
After a two-win season, Portsmouth Christian will look to a talented young nucleus to get back to the postseason.
"We have a good freshmen class and a lot of good underclassmen in the program. It's experience that we lack," said first-year head coach Derek Summers. "I see them improving every day in practice. It's about getting better every day and every week."
The Eagles should have pitching depth as Kian Littlefield, Jack Hatfield, and Cai Summers will all see time on the mound. "Pitching is an area where I think we will see improvement from a year ago," said Summers. "I like the depth we have at that position."
Littlefield will also play shortstop, Hatfield will play first base, and Summers will play second and third base.
Isaac Kohl should join Summers and Littlefield as one of the team's premier hitters while several players are competing for the starting catching role.
"We have a lot of competition for roles, and that's produced some good practices," said Summers.
Andrew Earwood, Brayden Leland, Gunner Burgess, and Jason Ludwig will all see playing time in the outfield.
"We have a lot to work on, but the kids' attitudes have been great," said Summers. "They want to improve on last season, and they're putting in the work to snake that happen."