Top Division I teams all have a good pitcher
Change was the theme in the New Hampshire high school baseball offseason. At least that was the case in Division I, where five schools will enter the 2013 season with a first-year head coach.
Dan Moylan, who played for the University of North Carolina and was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, was hired as the head coach at his alma mater, Keene High School. Kyle Harvell (Nashua North), Nick Jaskolka (Merrimack), Steve Campo (Pinkerton Academy of Derry) and Kevin O'Leary (Manchester Central) are the other new faces in Division I.
In terms of identifying the Division I contenders, that discussion starts with defending champion Concord. The Crimson Tide lost four starters from last year's team, but appears capable of making another strong postseason run.
"We have some quality young pitchers," Concord coach Scott Owen said. "How they develop will tell us where we are.
"I think we're in the second tier of teams, behind Trinity, BG, Londonderry, Timberlane and Spaulding. Division I baseball is as hard as anything to pick because everyone has a good pitcher. That's why you see a lot of upsets in the first round."
Division II has been dominated by Seacoast teams in recent years. Portsmouth won four consecutive titles, but that streak came to and end with a loss to Lebanon in last year's semifinals. St. Thomas of Dover defeated Lebanon in the Division II championship game, but the Saints must replace all but one starter (senior outfielder Jon Nartiff).
"I really don't think that starting the season there's any team that's head and shoulders above everybody else," Portsmouth coach Tim Hopley said. "There's no team that I can say is the favorite, and that's different from years past when you could say St. Thomas will be at the top or Portsmouth will be at the top."
Campbell of Litchfield and Conant of Jaffrey figure to be two of the top teams in Division III. Campbell returned six starters from the team that lost to Hopkinton in last year's title game. The returnees include pitcher Connor Sahlin and shortstop Christian Bourgea.
Conant will feature a strong one-two punch on the mound with Devin Springfield and Josh LeBlanc.
Hopkinton graduated six starters, five of whom have been regulars in the lineup since they were freshmen.
"I would say Campbell is as close to a clear-cut favorite as you can get," Hopkinton coach Dave Chase said. "And with those two pitchers back Conant will be pretty tough to beat."
Lisbon had four all-state players eligible to return from a team that reached the Division IV semifinals last year, but shortstop Chad Knighton didn't come out for the team, and center fielder Zach Sweeney moved outside the school district.
"With those kids back I feel we could have been one of the best teams in the division," Lisbon coach Jeremy Aldrich said. "I told the team we can't worry about who's not here.
"I think things are wide-open. I think Newmarket is the team, but if certain things happen there are a lot of teams that could be there at the end."