It gets tricky this time of year. With graduations and celebrations, with seniors looking ahead to the next phase of their education, baseball and softball coaches have to make sure their players remain focused on the state playoffs.

“It’s challenging,” said Rocky Gaslin, the softball coach at Cony High in Augusta. “There are a lot of things going on. And a lot depends on where the kids’ minds are.”

The regional baseball and softball tournaments begin this week with preliminary-round games in some classes Tuesday, and quarterfinals Thursday.

Regional championship games in all four classes will be played June 15 and 16. State championship games will be played on June 19.

And while there are certain teams that stood out all season, everything changes once the playoffs begin.

“It really depends on who gets hot at playoff time,” said Mike Rutherford, the baseball coach of fourth-ranked Westbrook in Western Class A. “That’s the key.”

Looking at his own region, Rutherford said, “I see six teams as having a chance to win it. I’m not afraid of anybody and I’m afraid of everybody.”

Normally, Rutherford and the other top Telegram League coaches get a chance to see each other in the league playoffs. But after Saturday morning’s torrential rains and thunderstorm wiped out the semifinals, league officials decided to cancel the Telly playoffs altogether.

Other leagues were able to play their championship games Friday, with a couple of surprises. In KVAC baseball, Cony beat Eastern Class A No. 1 seed Bangor 5-4 in eight innings. In the MVC softball final, Georges Valley beat Western Class C No. 1 seed Telstar, 2-1.

The SMAA softball playoffs will be played Tuesday at Scarborough High. Tom Griffin, coach of the top-ranked Red Storm, looks to keep his team on track.

“We want to keep the momentum going,” he said. “If you win a conference championship, that’s something you’ll always have. You go back to the gym in 20 years and it’s still up there. We’re looking forward to it.”

Griffin reiterated Rutherford’s sentiment that the team playing the best inevitably will win. In Western Class A softball, top-ranked Scarborough lost to No. 4 Cheverus, which lost to No. 3 Kennebunk and No. 2 South Portland, which lost to No. 1 Scarborough and beat Kennebunk.

“What that says is that you’ve got to bring your A game,” said Griffin. “Those are all quality teams. You have to bring your best on any particular day and hope that it works out.”

Mike Coutts is the coach of Deering’s top-ranked baseball team. But he knows the ranking means little this season.

“We’ve all had our moments when we’ve played well, we’ve all had our moments when we’ve played bad,” he said. “It all comes down to who is mentally tough.”

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

[email protected]