Skowhegan’s Jason Aubin slides safely into second base as Messalonskee’s Ty Bernier waits to catch the ball during a baseball game Wednesday in Madison. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

It’s a brutal thing, single-elimination baseball or softball — and oftentimes, it comes down to matchups.

It can be unfair, almost, when a season’s worth of hard work can be derailed by an opposing pitcher throwing a lights-out game or your bats going cold for just a few innings. Yet that’s the reality come June, and it’s one for which teams must be prepared.

“At this point in the season, you’ve put all the work in, and it’s about going out there and executing,” said Lawrence head baseball coach Corey Pelletier. “The team that does that better is probably the one that’s going to come out on top.”

The matchups for the playoffs are now set for 32 central Maine teams with the regular season in the books and the Heal points finalized. The first prelim games are scheduled for Tuesday with regional quarterfinal and semifinal games set to follow in the coming days.

Thoroughly impressive all season long, Messalonskee (13-3) has secured the No. 2 seed in Class A North. The Eagles put the clamps on that spot with a 5-3 eight-inning win Wednesday against Skowhegan that avenged their worst loss of the 2024 season.

Up next for Messalonskee is a Northern Maine quarterfinal showdown with seventh-ranked Mt. Ararat (8-8). Messalonskee topped Ararat 8-4 in the lone regular-season meeting between the two teams May 10, but since then, the Topsham side has won six of its past eight games.

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“They’re scrappy, and they’ve got a lot of guys that put the ball in play,” said Messalonskee head coach Eric Palin. “We know they’re going to make us make plays, and they have a good No. 1 (Andrew Clemons) that they’re going to throw against us. Our guys are going to have to come to play.”

Skowhegan, which got the No. 3 seed in A North by virtue of the loss to Messalonskee, will host No. 6 Camden Hills (7-9) in the quarterfinals. A win in that game would set up a potential rubber match with the Eagles, whom the River Hawks previously beat 14-1 on April 22.

Cony’s Parker Morin (9) high fives teammate Landon Foster after they both scored against Messalonskee in the first inning of a baseball game April 17 at Morton Field in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

In B North, Lawrence (14-2) claimed the No. 2 seed with Cony (11-5) coming in at No. 4. The Rams will host No. 5 Mount Desert Island (9-7) in the quarterfinals, while the Bulldogs will face the winner of a prelim between No. 7 Oceanside (9-7) and No. 10 Nokomis (7-9).

“Whoever we get, we all know each other very well, and it’s going to be a competitive matchup,” Pelleter said. “We had a 4-2 game against Oceanside, and we had a 6-5 game against Nokomis where we had to come back in the last inning. I see it being a battle against either team.”

Should Lawrence and Cony advance, they’ll likely face tough semifinal matchups against No. 3 Old Town (12-4) and No. 1 Ellsworth (15-1), respectively. In B South, meanwhile, No. 5 Oak Hill (12-4) will be on the road against fourth-ranked Cape Elizabeth (10-6).

In C South, defending state champ and No. 1 seed Monmouth Academy (15-1) will face the winner of a prelim between No. 7 Hall-Dale (10-6) and No. 10 Lisbon. No. 3 Mt. Abram (11-5) hosts No. 6 Traip Academy, and No. 5 Maranacook (11-5) will head south to face No. 4 Old Orchard Beach (11-5).

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Also qualifying for the playoffs out of C South was seventh-ranked Winthrop (8-8), which will face 10th-ranked Mountain Valley in the prelims. In the North, a third-ranked Mount View (11-5) team has earned a home quarterfinal game against the winner of No. 6 Narraguagus (10-4) and No. 11 Houlton (4-10).

In D South, Richmond (13-1), averaging 14.2 runs per game, will face a fellow central Maine and East/West Conference foe in No. 7 Carrabec (6-7). No. 6 Forest Hills (8-6) will make the 260-mile round-trip journey to take on No. 3 Searsport. 

Skowhegan’s Lillian Noyes throws a pitch to a Messalonskee batter during a softball game April 22 in Oakland. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

On the softball side, Skowhegan has secured the No. 1 seed in A North with a 15-1 record and will face eighth-ranked Lewiston (6-10) in the regional quarterfinals. No. 6 Messalonskee (10-6) will take on third-ranked Hampden Academy (12-4).

Although Skowhegan and No. 2 Oxford Hills (14-2) will be the favorites to reach the regional for the second year in a row, River Hawks head coach Lee Johnson knows his team isn’t a shoo-in. Seven of the eight teams in the A North playoffs boast 10 or more wins, setting the stage for what could be some tight games.

“It’s very tough,” Johnson said of the field. “There’s not a lot of separation as far as the teams and their abilities. We hit the ball well in some games against some of those teams, but we’ve also had some close games with some of them as well. You can’t overlook anybody.”

In B North, top-ranked Nokomis (14-2) will open its regional defense against No. 8 Oceanside (6-10), while No. 7 Cony (7-9) will host No. 10 Lawrence (7-9) in the prelims. No. 5 Gardiner (10-6) faces No. 12 Erskine Academy (5-11) in a B South prelim, while No. 6 Oak Hill (10-6) will host No. 11 Lincoln Academy (6-10).

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Also defending a championship is C South No. 1 seed Hall-Dale (14-2), which is seeking its third straight state title. The Bulldogs will face No. 8 Mt. Abram (5-11) in the quarterfinals before a potential semifinal game against a fourth-ranked Dirigo (12-4) team that has their head coach’s attention.

Monmouth pitcher Shannah Parsons throws to plate against Hall-Dale during a softball game May 28 in Farmingdale. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“To me, that’s the team that’s been a surprise this year,” Steve Acedo said. “They’ve got a good, young team that’s going to be a team that you’re going to be paying attention to looking down the road, and this year, if you fall asleep a little bit in the playoffs, they might end up beating you.”

No. 2 Monmouth (12-4) will face No. 7 Lisbon (5-11) in the C South quarterfinals with the winner advancing to face the winner of sixth-ranked Madison (8-8) and No. 3 Spruce Mountain (13-3). No. 9 Maine Central Institute will play No. 8 Central in a Class C North prelim game.

The D South field will feature a pair of local East/West Conference quarterfinal showdowns. Sixth-ranked Forest Hills (7-8) will take on No. 3 Richmond, while No. 5 Valley (8-8) will travel 15 miles south to take on No. 4 Carrabec (11-5).

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