The matchups are enticing. Two conference champions meet with a Class C South baseball title on the line. Meanwhile, in D South, there’s a score to settle in what’s become a growing rivalry.

The playoff roads have wound their way to St. Joseph’s College for the regional finals. In C South, Mountain Valley Conference champ and top seed Hall-Dale faces Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference B winner and No. 3 Maranacook at 3 p.m., today. It’s a rare matchup of unfamiliar teams in the MVC-dominated region, but both coaches said the teams know plenty about each other.

“I have seen them, and I know some of the kids from the area,” said Maranacook’s Eric Brown, who coached Hall-Dale in 2010. “I have a pretty good idea of what they’re about, and the challenges we have coming. It’s going to be a tough game. They’re definitely the 1 seed for a reason.”

“Because of the close proximity of the school districts, many of the names and faces are familiar to us,” Hall-Dale coach Bob Sinclair said. “I’ve coached Maranacook ballplayers in senior Legion over the years, I’ve coached with Coach Brown over the years. … Even though we haven’t seen each other during the regular season, the ballplayers know each other.”

The notion of familiarity continues in D South, where No. 2 Richmond faces No. 1 Searsport for the third time in four years. The Vikings beat the Bobcats the last two times, and Richmond coach Ryan Gardner said there’s a personal feel to this matchup.

“Oh, yeah. This is the team we wanted to play,” he said. “In soccer, they want to play Bangor Christian, or they want to play Buckfield. In baseball, we want to play Searsport. If you’re a competitor, you want to go up and beat the best team.”


In C South, both teams will have their top pitchers available. Hall-Dale’s Dean Jackman hasn’t pitched since throwing three innings against Winthrop in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Dan Garand didn’t pitch in the semifinal win over Lisbon and should be ready to go for Maranacook.

“He’s (Garand) a power pitcher, but he can pitch with control and hit his spots,” Brown said. “I’d rather have him on my side than have to face him. It is nice to have someone like that on your side.”

The Black Bears will rely on Garand, but they’ll also need their defense to be sharp against a Bulldogs team that has been hitting 1 through 9 and has feasted on opponents’ mistakes. Eight of Hall-Dale’s 11 runs in two playoff games were unearned, and the Bulldogs got all seven runs in their semifinal victory over Bridgeway with two outs in the second when errors opened the door.

“(That’s) a sign of a good team,” Brown said. “We need to be mistake-free. And we’ve done that for the majority of the season. We’ve kept our errors low, we make solid plays, we have a very athletic outfield that runs everything down. We have to continue on that same path.”

Sinclair doesn’t expect Maranacook to give his team too many opportunities.

“They will not beat themselves,” Sinclair said. “They play solid defense, they have good pitching in Garand. They look for timely hits and try to get ahead in the count.”


At the plate, the Black Bears will look for balance to keep paying off. Maranacook sports a lineup full of good hitters rather than two or three big bats, and Brown said that dynamic has continued in the postseason with contributions coming from all over.

“In that lineup, anyone of those guys can get the job done on any given day,” he said. “We’ve gotten by on pitching and defense, and getting that one big inning.”

• • •

Gardner isn’t alone in thinking there’s a little more on the line for his team’s Searsport showdown.

“We’re looking to get some revenge,” senior pitcher and shortstop Zach Small said. “We know they’ve won it the last three years, and we want to change that.”

To do so, they’ll have to find an answer for Charlie Spiegel, who allowed four hits in a complete-game effort in last year’s regional final and should be available Wednesday, even after pitching in the semifinal win over Buckfield. Gardner used Small to beat Greenville in the semis, but said he’s got enough pitching in No. 2 starter Matt Rines and hard-throwing relievers Justin and Andrew Vachon to get the job done.


“(Rines has) got a great defense behind him. He needs to just rely on that and pound the zone,” he said. “A lot of kids think they need to do it all themselves. But we’ve got a great defense, so you’ve just got to let them work for you. Induce the ground ball and I think we’ll be all set.”

On offense, Gardner said the key will be to work counts and strike early against the three-time champs, something the Bobcats, who were down 5-1 by the fourth inning, did not do last year.

“That’s exactly what we need to do. We need to get on top of them early and make them be on their heels,” he said. “They’re the champs. The pressure’s on them. … We want to get ahead early and see how they deal with that.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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