Even though it might make their jobs a little easier, coaches don’t want their teams to glide through the season.

They want their teams to be battle-tested. The more battle-tested a team is, the better prepared it is to play its best when the stakes are highest.

If nothing else, the local teams vying for regional baseball titles over the next two days are battle-tested. Poland, Winthrop, St. Dom’s and Rangeley all emerged victorious from nerve-wracking one-run games over the weekend. Poland and St. Dom’s won their semifinals in their last at-bat. Winthrop and Rangeley held on to late leads by their fingernails.

Today’s Western Class B final between No. 1 Poland (17-1) and No. 2 Greely (16-2) is the third contest between the Western Maine Conference rivals (3 p.m., St. Joseph’s College). The Knights walked away with a pair of thrilling 3-2 wins. Jake Pelletier and Will Griffiths combined to two-hit the Rangers in their regular-season finale at Greely.

The Knights are 7-1 in games decided by two runs or less this season in a schedule that included two games apiece against Greely, Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth, some of their toughest competition in the WMC, and Class C power St. Dom’s.

“That’s something we set out for. When they set the (WMC) schedule again for (next) year, we’ll ask for Greely twice and Cape and Falmouth and those teams,” Poland coach Dave Jordan said. “We want to be battle-tested come playoff time. We take a lot of pride in the teams that we play.”

Poland’s pitching staff, led by Pelletier, Griffiths and Joe Douglass, has been tough to rattle. But the offense, led by Douglass, Eric Picard and Tyler Merchant, tries and often succeeds in rattling opposing pitchers with its small-ball approach.

Tonight’s nightcap (7 p.m.) is the Western Class D final, a rematch of last year’s regional between No. 1 Richmond (17-0) and No. 3 Rangeley (11-4). Richmond came from behind to win that game, 6-2, on a four-hitter by pitcher Kyle Lancaster, who could draw the starting assignment again tonight.

If he does, he’ll face largely the same Laker lineup he did last year, although this group is much more confident at the plate, led by third baseman Ben Bliss, an all-EWC selection who hit .638 during the regular season.

“It’s all the same kids. They’re older. They’ve just got to get used to winning, that’s all, which they are,” said Rangeley coach Mark Gordon. “Everybody’s hitting right through the lineup, and we didn’t have that last year. We’re more balanced, and we hope that works against Richmond.”

The Western Class C final is a matchup of teams with similar styles but contrasting pedigrees.

“We don’t have any Western Maine banners. We don’t have any state championship banners. We’ve got one MVC banner,” Winthrop coach Marc Fortin said. “This is nice. We might be able to take away some trinkets this year.”

Fortin’s top-seeded Ramblers (14-2) will try to win their first Western C crown against second-seeded St. Dom’s (17-1), playing in its fifth straight regional final, Wednesday at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph’s College.

The previous four times, the Saints have had an ace up their sleeve in Brady Blackman, who won three of the four. Now, they’re hoping to tag-team their way to another title.

“We’ve been pretty much (pitching) by committee right through the playoffs,” Saints coach Bob Blackman said. “Andy (Allen) went 3 1/3 and (Jake) Rutt 3 2/3 (against Livermore Falls) so it probably will be one of those two for us.”

Lefty Forrest Dwyer will be on the hill for Winthrop, so if Allen gets the nod for the Saints, it will be a rematch of last year’s wild semifinal, which St. Dom’s won, 16-10. The two teams combined for 23 walks in that game. If they even come close to duplicating that feat Wednesday night, expect a lot of action on the base paths and a lot of bunts to be laid down. Both teams can hit the ball with authority, but both like to put pressure on opposing defenses and manufacture runs.


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