BAR HARBOR — For a coach two years removed from his last baseball game, Andy Pooler feels he — and his squad — are in a good spot.
Nothing is easy for anyone in the high school sports world these days as coaches and players look to get up to speed following a lost season. Yet even with an everchanging list of obstacles and uncertainties, Mount Desert Island’s head coach can’t help but be optimistic.
“I’m feeling really good about it,” Pooler said. “We have a good group of players and pretty much everybody back from the last time, and that’s more than a lot of teams can say.”
Indeed, with two senior classes having graduated and two freshman classes having arrived since the spring season, not many baseball teams throughout the state have rosters similar to those they had the last time spring sports were played in Maine. MDI, though, can make such a claim — and with the first preseason scrimmage here, the Trojans are ready to hit the ground running.
One of the area’s most experienced teams, MDI boasts a total of eight seniors this season. Among those seniors are Porter Isaacs (team-high .452 average and 11 RBIs, Logan Beckwith (.288, 17 hits, 14 runs scored and six stolen bases) and Sam Mitchell (.313 and seven RBIs), all of whom made significant contributions at the plate in 2019.
Mitchell (3.39 ERA, 2-1 with 23 strikeouts in 33 innings pitches) and Isaacs (4.02 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings pitched) also excelled for MDI on the mound in 2019. The Trojans also have strong options in junior Pileggi (2.30 ERA, 2-1) and an incoming freshman, Noah Keeley.
“We’re pretty rich on the mound,” Pooler said. “We had a lot of different guys pitch for us two years ago, and we’ve only really lost one of them (Sam Keblinsky). I think that’s going to be an area where we’re really strong this season.”
Despite being a young team two years ago, MDI held its own in a tough Class B field. Playing against one of the state’s most challenging schedules, the Trojans won eight regular season games and clinched the No. 5 seed in the Northern Maine tournament before ultimately falling to John Bapst in the preliminary round.
“We had graduated a lot of guys, so we really came into [the 2019 season] looking to strip things down and set that foundation again,” Pooler said. “We took a big step, and I think we would have taken another big step if we had a season last year.”
This year, Pooler said, MDI’s experience will allow it to shuffle its lineup and fielding alignment with flexibility. Two new classes of players will also bolster the depth of an MDI team that will make the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season (open state tournament will all teams advancing to the postseason).
The 2021 season, of course, will still be vastly different with mask requirements, umpires judging balls and strikes from behind the mound rather than the plate and players not allowed in dugouts. With players having seen no game action in nearly 22 months, there will also be a bit of rust to shake off.
“I think we’re going to struggle hitting early on, but that’s going to be the case with just about everybody,” Pooler said. “That’s a situation where I think our pitching can put us in a good spot. … It just makes it an advantage when you’re returning 90 percent of your production.”
MDI is set to begin its preseason slate April 8 when it hosts Penobscot Valley at 4 p.m. The Trojans will then play four additional preseason contests before beginning the regular season April 24 with a home doubleheader against Presque Isle.
With statewide playoffs at the end of the line, a full schedule of 16 games and fans set to return, those games will have a welcome feeling to them. Even if things aren’t as they were two years ago, the long wait has only made this season more meaningful.
“You always look forward to those first games, but after last year, I think that’s the case even more,” Pooler said. “We’ve spent a lot of the year with our hands tied, so this is a great opportunity. We’re hoping to make the most of it.”