H.S. softball: Regional playoff previews

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After being caught in a rundown Edward Little’s Caroline Hammond dives back to second, but not in time as Lewiston’s Emily Mousseau tags her out during a game in Auburn last month. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Class A North

Players to watch: P Ashley Alward, Skowhegan, Sr.; P Sydney Ames, Skowhegan, Jr.; CF Madison Day, Oxford Hills, So.; 3B Kenzie Kahkonen, Oxford Hills, Sr.; CF Jordyn Rubin, Lewiston, So.; C Meagan Gosselin, Lewiston, Sr.; LF Leah Smith, Messalonskee, Jr.; CF Emmy Lashua, Edward Little, Sr.; SS Brooklynn Scott, Hampden, Sr.; C Kayleigh Temple, Mt. Ararat, Sr.; 3B Madi Drake, Bangor, Jr.

Favorite: Skowhegan.

Prior to a loss to Oxford Hills in the exhibition KVAC championship game, the Indians played a perfect regular season. Lights-out pitching by the duo of Alward and Ames, mixed in with some balanced and timely hitting, paced Skowhegan to a spotless 16-0 record. The Indians won two one-run games, and also had a two-run win and a pair of three-run wins. The other 11 victories were all by five runs or more. There’s no reason to think the Indians won’t be the team to beat during the playoffs.

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Darkhorses: Messalonskee, Hampden Academy.

Messalonskee went just 9-7 during the regular season, but the Eagles played Skowhegan close twice and beat No. 2 Oxford Hills. The Hampden Academy Broncos, meanwhile, were one of the teams to play the Indians to a one-run game. Scott’s power can be a game-changer.

Overview: The Indians are the odds-on favorite, but EL coach Elaine Derosby said the rest of the seven playoff teams can challenge anyone, and the regular season proved that. Oxford Hills looks like the team with the best chance to knock off Skowhegan. The Vikings lost a heartbreaker during the regular season before beating the Indians in the KVAC title game, and they have the experience of facing Skowhegan in last year’s regional final. No. 3 Lewiston had one of its best regular seasons in years, and the Blue Devils have improved since an early-season loss to Skowhegan.

Prediction: Skowhegan.

Class B South

Players to watch: P Anya Chase, Wells, Sr.; 2B/P Karissa Kenyon, Wells, Jr.; P Alie Martell, Gray-NG, Sr.; C Morgan Fusco, Fryeburg, Fr.; P Dory Kulis, Morse, So.; SS Kiera Young, Oak Hill, Sr.; C Abby Nadeau, Oak Hill, Jr.; P Kelsey Currier, Greely, Sr.; CF Amanda Gagne, Poland, So.; 1B Tasha Powers, Yarmouth, So.; SS Julia Torre, Cape Elizabeth, Fr.; LF Leah Maheux, Leavitt, Fr.; 1B JuJu Doiron, Spruce Mountain, Jr.

Favorite: Wells.

The Warriors weren’t the dominant team in the Western Maine Conference like they were last year, but with Chase back in the circle and a solid program always bringing in new talent, they once again claimed the No. 1 seed. Wells will be plenty motivated after letting a late lead slip in last year’s regional final against Fryeburg.

Darkhorses: Morse, Oak Hill.

The Raiders had another stellar season in the Mountain Valley Conference, but haven’t faced the majority of the other Class B South playoff teams. They’ll have to learn from last year’s regional quarterfinal home loss to the Shipbuilders in order to test their mettle against the WMC’s best. Morse, meanwhile, has only improved since last year, and went 12-4 against mostly the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s Class B members. The Shipbuilders ended the regular season on an eight-game winning streak.

Overview: No region the state has as much potential parity as B South this season. No. 1 Wells went just 11-5, along with No. 2 Gray-NG and No. 3 Fryeburg. Any of the quarterfinalists can beat anyone else. It will take three (or four) of a team’s best performances to make it out of the region.

Prediction: Wells.

Class C South

Players to watch: P Lauria LeBlanc, Madison, So.; C Ashley Emery, Madison, Sr.; P Brynn Hink, Sacopee Valley, Sr.; C Giana Russo, Lisbon, So.; SS Kate Perkins, Winthrop, Jr.; 1B Haylee Langlois, Monmouth, Jr.; C Bailey Dunphy, Carrabec, Sr.; P Reilly Eddy, Traip Academy, Sr.; P/LF Sarah Benner, Hall-Dale, Fr.; 3B Josie Forbes, Telstar, Jr.

Favorite: Madison.

Isn’t it always the Bulldogs? Many of the same pieces return from last year’s regional champion squad, but now sophomore Lauria LeBlanc is starting at pitcher. She’s been powerful in the circle and is a big reason why Madison is No. 1 yet again. The experience around her solidifies the Bulldogs as the favorite.

Darkhorses: Traip Academy.

The No. 9 Rangers are one of two WMC teams in an MVC-heavy region. They are young, but senior pitcher Reilly Eddy has the stuff to upset higher-ranked teams. A potential quarterfinal against conference rival Sacopee Valley will be a tall task to win, however.

Overview: Madison distanced itself from the rest of the MVC, but Sacopee sits right behind in the No. 2 spot. Both teams will likely face stiff tests in potential semifinals against the likes of No. 3 Lisbon, No. 4 Winthrop, No. 5 Monmouth and No. 6 Carrabec. Hink is a veteran in the circle for the Hawks, who played a difficult schedule in preparation of a long playoff run.

Prediction: Sacopee Valley.

Class D South

Players to watch: P Lily Pelletier, Greenville, Sr.; P Halle Pelletier, Greenville, Sr.; P Syndey Tilton, Richmond, Sr.; SS Cara Merrill, Buckfield, Fr.; C Hannah Shields, Buckfield, Jr.; P Jenna Keach, Searsport, So.; P Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, Vinalhaven/North Haven, Sr.; P/C Sydney Royce, Rangeley, Sr.

Favorite: Richmond.

The Bobcats lost in the regular season, and at home no less, but less-than-usual Heal points aren’t enough to knock them off the team-to-beat podium. Tilton took over in the circle this year, and has been successful there as well as at the plate still. The Bobcats have youth in other spots, but the program churns out talent — and regional titles.

Darkhorse: Greenville.

The Lakers are the No. 1 seed, but because they don’t play other top D South teams, like Richmond and Buckfield, they will always be a bit of an unknown before the playoffs. Greenville’s group of Pelletiers could be enough to unseat Richmond.

Overview: If seeds hold in the quarterfinal round, the semifinals will see conference foes face off. No. 2 Richmond and No. 3 Buckfield are fierce rivals, and the Lakers and No. 4 Searsport see each other during the regular season. The Bobcats face a stiffer test, but had the Bucks’ number twice already. A win in the semifinals means another regional final in Standish, which has become a second home for the Bobcats.

Prediction: Richmond.

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