With all but one returning member, the experienced, senior-laden Belfast Area High School baseball squad expects to step up and challenge, despite the expected difficult competition.

“We are pretty optimistic. We hope we are going to have a good season,” said 29th-year coach George Ross. “It’s a very tough league, but we hope we are going to do well.”

The Lions include seniors Josh Beal (third base, pitcher), Eric Peters (second base, pitcher), Chris Brown (outfield), Cote Ward (first base), Matt Steinort (catcher), Mike Berry (outfield, pitcher), Nick Thibodeau (third base), Derrick Bernosky (outfield, pitcher), Jack Davis (shortstop), A.J. Chasse (outfield, infield) and Matt Sanderson (outfield); and juniors Craig Herbert (catcher) and Winston Simmons (outfield).

So far, coach Ross said the team looks strong defensively in preseason play, but he hopes the Lions’ hitting will improve throughout the season.

“I think we have been pretty solid defensively and our pitching has been good,” he said. “So, [that] of course is huge. We are hoping that the hitting is going to come around a little bit better than it has, but we should be able to hit the ball pretty well.”

Coach Ross said he would like to put the ball in play more so he can get his players where they can shine, namely running the bases. “We’ve had a little problem with strikeouts and we’re hoping that [with] the more experienced group we’re going to put a little more pressure offensively on people,” he said. “We have pretty good team speed so the game really changes when we get people on base.”

The Lions hope to be in the top-11 this year and qualify for the Eastern Class B playoffs. “That’s the goal you always set first,” Ross said. “That’s where you want to be”

BAHS has not been to the postseason in a couple of years, according to Ross, and are antsy to get back to the tournament.

However, the competition is stiff. With plenty of strong teams, the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B division is a tough place to play and an even more difficult place to conquer.

“This league is just so strong in many senses,” said Ross. He said that, because every squad is talented, he cannot single out his top competition. “It’s very hard in this league to actually pick somebody out because it is so balanced and so good.”

With a veteran squad, the Lions are sure to have an exciting season and look forward to playing their best in hopes of attaining its goal — a playoff berth.

The Lions will open the regular season by hosting Waldo County rival Mount View of Thorndike on Friday, April 23 at 1 p.m.

Village NetMedia Sports Reporter Frederick Freudenberger can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at fritz@villagesoup.com.