Baseball fans across the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference might have scratched their heads when the 2018 schedule was released. Most schools were set to face opponents in a different class, and for schools in the KVAC’s B division, opponents in different leagues entirely. Crossover games worked in other sports. Now, the KVAC was ready to try them in baseball and softball.

As the regular season winds down, the new scheduling format has produced some interesting games, renewed some lost rivalries but also has led to some questions.

With 29 members across three classes (Maranacook is in Class C South) and four regions, scheduling for the KVAC is difficult. When he took on the job of building the 2018 baseball/softball schedule, Brewer athletic director David Utterback solicited input from his peers. Each athletic director was asked to provide six opponents “important to their community.”

Class B Gardiner, for example, wanted to maintain its long-standing rivalry with Class A Cony. Class B members Lawrence, Winslow and Waterville wanted to play Class A Messalonskee. On the midcoast, Class A Brunswick and Class B Morse renewed their rivalry, as did Camden Hills (now in Class A) with Oceanside and Belfast.

With a few games still to play, Class A teams have dominated, winning 68 percent of games against Class B competition. For the most part, these cross-class games were not blowouts. Only five were decided by 10 or more runs, and a dozen were decided by four or fewer runs.

Lawrence and Brewer dropped from Class A to Class B North, bringing the total number of B teams in the region to 21.

Utterback also reached out to other conferences to see which would be amicable to scheduling inter-conference games. Because many KVAC members are in central Maine, travel would be easier compared to schools in the extreme corners.

The Penobscot Valley Conference and Western Maine Conference were happy to work with the KVAC.

This led to inter-conference games for the KVAC’s Class B teams, as well as Maranacook, which without inter-conference games would play a schedule against only Class B teams. The Black Bears played a non-conference home-and-home series against St. Dominic of Auburn, and also made the trip to Old Orchard Beach for a non-conference game. Maranacook (12-2) split with St. Dom’s (9-5), also a playoff contender, and beat Old Orchard Beach.

“It was good to get a win over St. Dom’s. They’re an intimidating team,” Maranacook coach Eric Brown said.

A concern for the Black Bears was travel, Brown added, and not just for the hour and a half ride each way to Old Orchard Beach. The Black Bears also had a long trip to Rockland to face Oceanside for a KVAC game, while closer conference opponents such as Gardiner were not on their schedule.

“I think it just makes more sense for us to play games closer to home,” Brown said.

Geographic considerations were made, Utterback said, but some long trips were unavoidable. For example, Lincoln Academy of Newcastle, a school off the coast, opened the season at Fryeburg, on the New Hampshire border. In Class B North, Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield was asked to travel to Caribou for a non-conference doubleheader, while Presque Isle came south for games at Nokomis. Washington Academy made the long trip from East Machias to Thorndike for a doubleheader at Mount View.

But inter-conference games between Class A and B teams were met with some questions.

Erskine baseball coach Lars Jonassen questioned the disparate numbers of games against Class A opponents. His Eagles have three games against Class A teams, against powerhouses Edward Little and Oxford Hills, as well as regional rival Cony. Lawrence had four games against Class A teams (Mt. Blue, Messalonskee, Skowhegan, and Lewiston). Lawrence coach Rusty Mercier said he’d prefer to play more games against Class B opponents.

“We’re competing with schools for playoff spots that you can’t play,” Mercier said.

Waterville had two Class A games (Messalonskee and Mt. Blue), while Winslow had one against Messalonskee. Neither Mount View nor MCI has a game against a Class A opponent this season. Jonassen said he’s fine playing any schedule his team is given, he’d just like to see more consistency. Erskine is 4-10, going 0-3 against Class A opponents. The Eagles are fighting for a playoff spot against teams like Foxcroft and Presque Isle, which played no games against Class A competition.

“The lack of balance concerns me. You still have to win the games, but at the same time, I worry about where this goes with conferences. Are we leaning to not having a conference?” Jonassen said.

Jonassen said he will voice his concerns at a KVAC baseball coaches meeting next week. This is the first year of a two-year schedule cycle, and Utterback said he expects tweaks to be made when the next schedule is constructed. Utterback said he hopes the next scheduling cycle can include non-conference games against opponents from the Southern Maine Activities Association and Mountain Valley Conference, as well as more games against WMC and PVC schools.

“Is everyone completely happy with it? I doubt it. You’ll never have everybody completely happy,” Utterback said. “I would hope some of these relationship stay. We try to make the matchups that make most sense for the kids.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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