There are 14 teams in the Class B North baseball playoffs. And in Nokomis coach Scott Hartsgrove’s mind, all of them have a shot.

“I think it’s anybody’s game this year, to be honest with you,” he said. “We’ve played a couple of the top-seeded teams, and we’ve played well against them. I feel like any given day we can have our chance against them.”

There’s evidence to his point. The B North field is often one of the state’s most competitive, with winning teams from the Penobscot Valley and Kennebec Valley Athletic Conferences often flooding the standings, and this year is no different. There’s a clear favorite — Ellsworth is the region’s top seed at 15-1 — but there’s no easy path through the bracket. Quality teams are everywhere, with over .500 records belonging to 11 of the 14 qualifying teams. Oceanside, at 13-3, is a four seed. Gardiner’s 12-4 record still meant a sixth seed. Nokomis and Waterville are in the middle of the pack at Nos. 8 and 9, respectively, despite solid 10-6 records.

The result is a full bracket — only Ellsworth and Brewer avoid preliminary games — that could be unpredictable as well.

“I really feel that way,” Hartsgrove said. “Baseball’s unpredictable, for sure. For my guys as well. All I can hope for is we play our game.”

Hartsgrove’s Warriors will host Waterville in the preliminary round Tuesday in the third game and rubber match between the two teams. Nokomis beat Waterville 6-3 in April, then lost 6-5 last week.

Gardiner, which won nine straight games in the middle of the season, will host No. 11 Belfast (9-7) in the prelim round. No. 12 MCI (7-9), which climbed into the playoff mix with four straight wins, will try to keep the magic going when it heads north for a prelim game with No. 5 Hermon (11-5).

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Hall-Dale grabbed the No. 1 seed in the C South bracket, going 15-1 and flexing its muscles one last time before the playoffs by beating No. 2 seed Lisbon (13-3) in consecutive days in the regular-season finale and the Mountain Valley Conference championship. The Bulldogs boast a rotation led by Dean Jackman and Cole Lockhart, who took a perfect game into the seventh in the MVC title game, and a lethal lineup led by heavy hitters Akira Warren, Austin Stebbins, Jacob Brown, Alec Byron and Lockhart.

They drew a bye in the first round, and will face the winner of the preliminary game between No. 8 Winthrop and No. 9 Sacopee Valley, both 9-7. The Ramblers won six of seven games to settle into the playoff mix, and though they dropped three of their last four games, there was reason for optimism — two of those losses were to Lisbon, and were by a total of three runs at 7-5 and 2-1.

The other preliminary game will be No. 10 Mt. Abram traveling to face No. 7 Monmouth. There were few better stories in Class C than the Roadrunners, who improved from 0-13-1 to 6-10 this season and who should approach the playoffs with confidence after scoring an 8-6 victory over the Mustangs (12-4) on May 2. Monmouth has improved since, however, and rolls into the playoffs on a six-game winning streak and with impressive wins over Winthrop and Bridgeway to its credit.

Maranacook challenged Mt. Abram for the title of C South’s turnaround team, going 13-3 and taking the region’s third seed after going 6-10 in Class B a year ago. The Black Bears will face No. 6 St. Dominic in the first round, a game that promises to be a pitchers’ duel after both teams split shutouts (3-0 Maranacook, 2-0 St. Dominic) during the regular season.

Bridgeway (11-5) takes the fifth seed, and will have to pay for not climbing one more rung — the Bandits will have to travel over 140 miles to No. 4 Traip (12-4) for their first-round game.

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The A North field contains the defending state champion in Bangor, which captured the No. 1 seed at 15-1. But Skowhegan coach Mike LeBlanc thinks a dark horse looms.

“Now I’d have to say Lewiston would probably be the favorite, with the way they’re playing,” he said.

Indeed, the fourth-seeded Blue Devils (12-4) — who open against No. 5 Hampden (11-5) — enter as perhaps the region’s hottest team. Lewiston has four straight wins and 12 in its last 13 games, and has allowed five runs in its last seven games. Oxford Hills and Edward Little, both 13-3, took seeds 2 and 3.

The race is open, however. No. 7 Skowhegan (8-8), which opens against Oxford Hills, played both the Vikings (4-1 loss) and Bangor (6-2 loss) tough, and with no losing records in the field, each team will have to knock off another that has proven it can win games.

“It’s a pretty strong field,” he said. “And our conference is pretty tough. … I think if they play a clean game and do the things they need to do, they’re confident they can win games.”

No. 8 Messalonskee (8-8) will get Bangor, which swept the Eagles 8-1 and 11-1 in the regular season.

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Richmond is seeded second in D South at 14-1, but even though Searsport took the first seed with a more pedestrian 10-6 record, Bobcats coach Ryan Gardner knows they deserve respect.

“I’m a big believer that the champ is still the champ until somebody knocks him off,” he said. “I think everybody’s looking at Searspot, being the three-time defending Class D state champions. We’re all chasing them.”

Gardner also said there are more teams this year that can give Searsport a run. He said No. 3 Greenville (13-3) has improved, and No. 4 Buckfield (10-6) is always steady. And he likes his team’s chances of being another challenger.

“I think we can match up very well with them,” he said. “These kids have been around. … Confidence is not their problem. They think they can beat anybody, any day.”

The Bobcats will host No. 7 Temple (6-10) in the quarterfinals after earning 11-1 and 14-0 wins during the season. No. 8 Forest Hills (5-8) will face Searsport for the first time, and No. 5 Rangeley (9-5) will get Buckfield for the first time since the Bucks swept a May 19 doubleheader.

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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