It’s that time of year again. Time to make the leisurely late spring drive to the tiny campus of St. Joseph’s College, home of the Monks, the inevitable late afternoon thunder storm coming off Sebago Lake, and the Western Maine high school baseball regional finals.

Outside of the dragon flies that float around Mahaney Diamond like they own the place, there’s usually not as much buzz surrounding these tournaments as their fall and winter equals.

The football playoffs are popular because the short season builds up to them so perfectly, and because we in the news business get a week to hype every game. And nothing can touch the basketball tournament for intensity, emotion and volume of games in one setting.

The baseball tournament, especially the regional and state championships, get short shrift by comparison. School’s out, or almost out, for summer. The weather’s great and there is a lot more to do than there is in November or February. Just look at the crowds that come out to St. Joseph’s College every year. They’re a drop in the bucket compared to the football finals at Fitzpatrick Stadium and the basketball finals at the civic centers. Communities don’t get behind their baseball or softball teams the way they do during the high-profile fall and winter sports.

I’m just as guilty as anyone else. As a sports writer, I’m pretty much ready for the high school year to end by now, too. Time for a break. That’s usually my attitude when I make the drive to Standish every year. Then some senior pitcher throws a two-hit shutout for his last hurrah or some little freshman second baseman comes through in the clutch and I’m reminded once again that great moments and great stories like those don’t come along too often in July and August.

And that’s why I’ll be a little more of a lead-foot while cruising down Route 202 today. This is a tournament worth some hype, even if it hasn’t gone quite as I predicted one week ago today.

I would have loved to have seen Mountain Valley get a shot at the Class B triple crown (football, basketball and baseball), but you have to believe that by losing in such unlikely fashion, the Falcons were just due. But I’m already over it. Greely and Poland merely played each other in two of the best games of the 2007 season, a pair of one-run games won by Poland. Tonight’s sequel should be a dandy.

Winthrop, like Poland, is looking for its first regional crown in Class C, but they’ll have to go through St. Dom’s to do it. The Saints are the closest thing we have to a dynasty in high school baseball right now, having won the last three regionals. These are two fun teams to watch. The Ramblers are experienced and loaded. The Saints are young and loaded. And the wheels always seem to be turning in both dugouts. This is the final for anyone who enjoys the game within the game.

Class D is a rematch between Rangeley and unbeaten Richmond. It looks like a mismatch on paper, but don’t expect the Lakers to be intimidated after giving the Bobcats a game last year.

Oh, and the Class A final is only the 1,474th big game between Portland and Deering, if you’re interested.

Not a bad way to end the school year, if you think about it.

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