Some famous names are at the top of Class A North baseball, with two weeks left in the regular season.
Oxford Hills of South Paris, the region’s defending champions from 2019, takes first place in the Heal Points. Bangor, who lost their first spring defeat to Oxford Hills last Friday, are second and Oakland’s Messalonskee third.
A newcomer to the Class A competition is Camden Hills of Rockport, which is enjoying its best season since stepping up from Class B in 2016, a year after winning the title in the North.
Moving up to the big schools was a challenge for the Windjammers, who were between 20 and 46 from 2016 to 2019.
Camden Hills started their home game against Belfast 9-1 on Wednesday and had an eight-game winning streak since their last loss to Oceanside of Rockland a month ago.
“I’ve been playing baseball since I was six or seven, but I’m really enjoying this spring with this group of guys,” said first year head coach Ben Rollins. “I want to continue with these guys, but we just have to make the most of the time left.”
Rollins, 24, was a senior on the 2015 Windjammers regional championship team and then played in Northern Vermont-Lyndon. There, the home field is named after one of his baseball mentors, Skip Pound, a former NVL sporting director and, more recently, a former assistant baseball coach in Camden Hills.
“Skip has definitely taken me under his wing and really strengthened me during those years in college,” said Rollins.
Upon graduation in 2019, Rollins interned with the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks of the New England Collegiate Baseball League and attended the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.
“While I was there, I thought, ‘I think I want to practice baseball,” he said.
Rollins was scheduled to coach Camden Hills junior varsity squad in 2020 until COVID-19 forced the season to be canceled.
After Paul MacDonald resigned as the school’s college baseball coach, Rollins rose that spring.
“I knew a little bit of what I had, but I really didn’t have a clue of what I had,” said Rollins, who helped coach a local U17 team last summer. “When we did tryouts, it was pretty easy to say that we had a very special group of people here.”
The Windjammers are led by Senior Catcher Sam Moody, Senior Pitching Ace Logan Putansu, Junior Center Fielder Matt Kremin and Junior Pitcher Shortstop Liam O’Neal. Obediah Miller, a senior left fielder, was another key contributor, as were two newcomers, second baseman Cam Brown and left-handed pitcher Hunter Bell, a transfer from Oklahoma.
The team’s schedule is more of a coronavirus travel concession than Camden Hills Class A status. 14 of the 16 games against Class B rivals in the Central Coast.
“We all know our schedule is probably the easiest of the company we’ll have in the playoffs, but we understand that planning is about COVID so we just have to win the games we get and try to get them better every day, “said Rollins.
The only defeat of the Windjammers came when Oceanside scored six runs in the seventh inning in the second inning and scored an 8-7 win in the second game of their double header at the season opener.
“We learned a lot about ourselves,” said Rollins. “We have learned that we are not invincible.”
Camden Hills then recorded four straight wins in a single run, including a 1-0 survival from Belfast on May 3rd.
Since then, Camden Hills has taken four more wins, outperforming its opponents at 39:15.
“The bats are definitely coming to life,” said Rollins. “We definitely take a lot better bats and of course the defense has gotten better. We find our timing in the box and our mental clock on the field. “
The remaining question the Jammers face is how will they hold up against Class A playoffs after limited exposure to the state’s largest baseball programs earlier in the season.
“These guys know what to do,” said Rollins, whose team Brewer 8-7 at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor on April 23 and 9-6 at Rockport on May 5 in his only games against an opponent of the class A defeated. “I just know we will see some good teams in the playoffs and I hope we will see several teams in the playoffs.
“If we get Bangor or Messalonskee or Oxford Hills, I just see it as a great opportunity to improve our game.”