Rod Bean of Oxford Hills beats the throw to Edward Little catcher Will Cassidy to score a run for the vikings in Auburn earlier this season. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

If baseball titles were decided by aggregate score as they are in, say, soccer, Oxford Hills would be in really good shape heading into Wednesday’s Class A North final against Edward Little in Augusta (Morton Field, 5:30 p.m.).

The unbeaten Vikings are in good shape regardless of who they play. But fortunately for those who want drama in their postseason, the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference rivals will be starting with zeroes when the first pitch is delivered on Wednesday. The top-seeded Vikings (18-0) smothered the third-seeded Red Eddies (13-5) 11-1 in five innings on May 6 and 14-0 in five innings 15 days later.

The teams know each other well from regular high school and American Legion meetings, which have usually gone the Vikings’ way. But the Red Eddies, who are making their first regional title game appearance since 2016, know they’re better off leaving all of that in the past.

“We’re very respectful of everything Oxford Hills stands for in terms of their program and their record and how they compete,” EL coach Dave Jordan said. “We’re pleased and honored that we can get a third chance to compete with them and, hopefully, compete better with them. We know they are very, very good. If they’re on their ‘A’ game, it’s very hard for anyone in the state that plays them. But instead of worrying about what game they bring, we’re trying to bring our best game on Wednesday.”

The Vikings, who were preseason favorites because of their large and talented senior class, are back in the regional final after losing to eventual state champion Bangor last year. They’ve ridden outstanding pitching performances by University of Maine-bound Colton Carson (no-hitter) and junior Wyatt Williamson (five-hitter) in 7-0 and 3-1 wins over Skowhegan and Lewiston, respectively, back to Morton Field.

Carson and Williamson also picked up wins against EL during the regular season.

So far, the Vikings have canceled out the pressure of expectations with their big-game experience, playing with the poise coach Shane Slicer thinks may be his team’s biggest advantage.

“It’s hard to relax because you know you’re one-and-done. We know we have a good team and the expectations there,” Slicer said. “More importantly, the pitching’s been great but the defense is very good, so we’re probably not going to shoot themselves in the foot. The kids have been around. The last couple of years, we’ve been in these games, and I think they focus a little better when it’s go time.”

In contrast to the uncertain team the Vikings encountered the first two times they played EL, the playoff Eddies have resembled a team carrying on a program that has averaged nearly 14 wins a year over the past five years.

Steady defense, timely hitting and the pitching of Ethan Brown and Ben Cassidy pushed the Eddies through an 8-1 quarterfinal win over Mt. Ararat and 7-4 semifinal triumph over Messalonskee.

The difference, according to Jordan, is that the Eddies started playing and practicing with the sense of urgency a single-elimination tournament brings, which has translated into the energy and confidence they played with last week.

“We got together and had a nice discussion about playoff baseball, which really has to come with competing and surviving,” Jordan said. “How you do that is you have to come to practice every day and bring it. As a team, I think we were able to look in the mirror a little bit and say maybe we hadn’t done it as much as we’d hoped to in the regular season, and they’ve been exceptional the last couple of weeks.”

Like Slicer, Jordan has options for who he’ll start on the mound Wednesday in Brown and Cassidy, both seniors. Cassidy faced the Vikings in the 14-0 game and was perfect the first time through the order before Ashton Kennison’s solo home run in the fourth opened the floodgates.

Brown did not face the Vikings this year, which probably isn’t an accident. But Slicer said there aren’t many mysteries left between the two teams.

“They’re just like Lewiston, we know them,” he said. “It will be a highly intense game. It’s a rivalry. We’re looking forward to it. They deserve to be there just like we do.”

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