Maranacook’s Esme Jamison can’t tag Monmouth’s Abby Flanagan out at third during a game in Readfield on May 3. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Every team has a chance this season to make a run at a state championship that is two years in the making.

Getting to the title game, however, is harder than ever, since there are more teams battling in the postseason, which this year features an open tournament that includes every team that chooses to participate.

Oxford Hills pitcher Kiara McLeod winds up for a pitch during an early-season softball game against Greely in Paris. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“‘Weird’ is the best word I can find to describe the brackets this year,” Monmouth coach Dave Kaplan said. “Teams with one or two wins who would never have a chance now get their shot, and I predict you will see a sleeper upset a team or two.”

A couple area softball teams found themselves a little farther down in the final Heal points standings than in previous seasons. Oxford Hills and Monmouth both check in at No. 3 in their respective regions — the Vikings in Class A North and the Mustangs in Class C South.

The top-seeded teams in both regions are newcomers to the No. 1 spot, with Messalonskee at the top of the A North standings, ahead traditional powerhouses Skowhegan and Oxford Hills, and undefeated Hall-Dale above Madison and Monmouth.

“Hall-Dale and Madison are the class of the region,” Kaplan said. “Hall-Dale has, in my opinion, a deeper lineup offensively than Madison, but Madison has that confidence and expectation of winning that comes from the sustained excellence that they have experienced in recent years. I feel like if those teams played each other 100 times, the result would be a 50-50 split.

“As for us having a chance, we will need to tighten up some leaks in our defense, and peak offensively very soon. Timely hits have been elusive of late.”

Area teams occupy the No. 5 spot in four different brackets — Lewiston in A North, Gray-New Gloucester in B South, Winthrop in C South and Buckfield in D South. Gray-NG and Buckfield both earned those spots with first-year coaches at the helm.

In A North, Edward Little is seeded 10th, and Mt. Blue is right behind at No. 11.

The Class B South field also features area teams Poland (No. 7) and Leavitt (No. 11). Fryeburg is the top seed, while undefeated Cape Elizabeth is No. 2.

“We ended up only getting in 13 regular season games, but I truly feel lucky we were able to get in that many,” Poland coach Katrina Seeley said. “We had great weather this spring, up until Memorial Day weekend. Overall, I feel we are in a good place and we will be facing teams we have not seen since 2019. (We) will need to continue to work hard defensively and continue to battle at the plate.”

The Knights will host an opening-round matchup against No. 10 York, a Western Maine Conference rival that it normally plays during the regular season, but didn’t this year due to regional-based scheduling.

A string of area teams ended up in the middle of the C South standings, with Telstar, Dirigo, Spruce Mountain, Mountain Valley, Oak Hill and Lisbon occupying the No. 7 through No. 12 spots. Mt. Abram, which closed the regular season with its first victory, is the No. 15 seed.

Opening-round matchups featuring two area teams include: No. 12 Lisbon at No. 5 Winthrop, No. 10 Mountain Valley at No. 7 Telstar, and No. 9 Spruce Mountain at No. 8 Dirigo.

St. Dom’s, which had previously competed in Class C South, is the No. 6 seed in Class D South. Rangeley, which didn’t play in 2019, is the No. 10 seed. Searsport is the top seed in the region.

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