BAR HARBOR — Matt Haney might as well be living at Mount Desert Island High School these days.
From early in the morning to mid-afternoon, Haney, MDI’s principal, is busy supervising just about every aspect of the school. In addition to school hours, meetings and other necessary parts of the job, he’s also taken on another position: head coach of the MDI baseball team.
“I love getting to be around baseball, but really I just love being around the great kids we have at this school in any way possible,” Haney said. “I see them all day at school, and now I get to see them around here and have a different relationship with them, and I think that’s great.”
It’s been a quick turnaround for Haney, who was first appointed as MDI’s head coach less than a month ago. Haney, as noted, has a good feeling about this group of players, and with the spring sports season now here, the Trojans are looking to keep contending in Class B North.
MDI went 11-8 last year in the team’s final season under Andy Pooler. The Trojans beat Maine Central Institute and Nokomis in the playoffs before taking on eventual state champion Old Town, which had to come back from a one-run deficit in the seventh inning to defeat MDI in the regional semifinals.
Haney, who played baseball at George Stevens Academy from 1991-94 and would later be head coach of the Trenton Acadians as well as multiple youth teams, has a mix of returning talent and newcomers this spring. MDI has six players, including three pitchers, returning, but replacing the seven players who combined for the most at-bats in 2021 will be a challenge.
The most experienced of MDI’s returning players is Quentin Pileggi, who was a first-team All-Penobscot Valley Conference selection a year ago. Pileggi was 4-1 with 45 strikeouts, seven walks allowed and a 0.67 ERA on the mound last year while batting .389.
“Quentin has been playing since he’s a freshman and has also put in a lot of time playing travel ball to get better,” Haney said. “He’s a lights-out centerfielder, and he’s also one of the better pitchers in out conference. He can swing the bat, too; he’s the full package as a baseball player.”
Fellow pitchers Jay Haney, Matt’s son, and Noah Keeley are also back for the Trojans this year. Logan Blanchette, Aiden Grant and Brendan Graves saw action last year with Grant having recorded seven hits, knocked in four RBIs and scored 11 runs.
With just six returning players, MDI will be reliant on some of its newcomers to fill the voids that have been left from a year ago. One of those newcomers is A.J. Lozano, who is back at the school after transferring to Bangor for the 2020-21 school year and is hoping to make the same impact he did on the football field and basketball court.
“You saw the difference he made on the football and basketball teams, and he’s a really versatile baseball player, too,” Haney said. “He’s going to be an infielder for us, he’s going to spend some time on the mound, and he’s going to tear it up for us at the plate and on the bases. We’re really lucky to have him.”
MDI will get its first test of the year when it faces Belfast in a preseason game at noon next Saturday, April 9. The Trojans will open the regular season with a home doubleheader against Caribou at noon and 2 p.m. April 23.
Class B North will be as challenging as ever this year with strong Ellsworth and Old Town teams leading the way. Haney, though, believes his group has what it takes to hang with anybody on a given day.
“That’s the thing about baseball: Any time you go out there, anybody can win,” Haney said. “Not that it’s not going to be tough, but we can give ourselves a chance to win if we play the game the right way.”