With the playoffs starting next week, several local American Legion baseball teams are vying for a playoff berth

The American Legion Zone 4 tournament is shaping up to be a good one.

The four-team playoff starts Tuesday, with the No. 4 team visiting the No. 1 team and No. 3 playing at No. 2, with the nine-inning games scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. The winners will meet Thursday for the championship.

The champ gets an automatic bid to the state tournament (July 29 – Aug. 2 in Augusta), while the runner-up goes to a play-in game on Saturday in Augusta against the Zone 2 runner-up.

The top four teams through last Monday were Morrill Post at 11-1 (South Portland and Cape Elizabeth High schools), Nova Seafood at 8-2 (Deering), Libby-Mitchell at 11-3 (Scarborough and Bonny Eagle) and Stockhouse at 10-4 (Westbrook).

Morrill plays both Nova and Libby-Mitchell twice and Stockhouse once over its final six games, so the final seedings may not be determined until Saturday, the final day of the regular season.

Libby-Mitchell and Stockhouse split a pair of games in recent action. On Monday, Libby-Mitchell won 7-1 at Westbrook High School, bouncing back from a 10-0 throttling by Stockhouse in Scarborough just three days before.

“This is the team that beat us on Friday night, so we knew this was a big game,” said Libby-Mitchell assistant coach Jim Cronin, filling in for head coach Will Sanborn, who was running a baseball camp. “We wanted to get the split with them on the season, because it’s going to be tight for the top four spots and only the top four make the playoffs this year.”

Libby-Mitchell got on the board early, as Jake Rutt roped a two-out single and Chris Bernard followed with a home run over the 350-foot marker in left-center field to make it 2-0 in the top of the first.

That proved to be all the run support Lincoln Sanborn would need. He struck out six and scattered seven hits in a complete-game effort.

“Sanborn pitched a great game for them,” said Stockhouse coach Greg Souza. “He battled and had good stuff. He took our hitters out of the game. They caught the ball and we made a few mistakes defensively to keep some innings going for them.”

Stockhouse got its only run in the bottom of the first when Lance Ludka led off with an infield single, stole second and came around to score on Matt Foye’s single. Ludka finished with three hits.

Libby-Mitchell tacked on two more runs in the third on RBI hits from Rutt and Bernard. Bernard went 3 for 3, adding a double to the wall in the seventh inning after being intentionally walked in the fifth. Rutt was robbed by Ludka of extra bases in the fifth, when the Stockhouse centerfielder made a leaping catch on a well-struck line drive.

The Rutt-Bernard combo in the three-four spots in the order will present problems for any pitcher.

“As usual, they just pounded it,” Cronin said. “They’re the catalysts for the team. When they’re hitting, the other guys roll along with it, too.”

Libby-Mitchell scored twice more in the sixth. Jimmy Rouse doubled and scored on Joe Cronin’s double into the gap in right-center field. Cronin went to third on the throw home and scored on a groundout by Sanborn.

The final run came in the seventh when Kevin Moskevich tripled with two outs and scored on an error.

Sean Murphy started and went six innings for Stockhouse. Tommy Lemay came on for the seventh.

Scott Heath missed the game for Stockhouse with a knee injury. He struck out 13 and twirled a three-hitter in the 10-0 win on Friday. Souza said he was unsure of the extent of Heath’s injury.

Libby-Mitchell handed Nova, the defending Legion state champion, its first loss of the season on Friday afternoon prior to the night game against Stockhouse. Libby-Mitchell won 4-0 behind a two-hitter from Bernard, who struck out 10. Bernard also homered, doubled and drove in three runs in the contest.

Stockhouse hosted O.A. Yarmouth on Friday before packing up and heading over to the game at Scarborough. Stockhouse beat O.A. Yarmouth 12-4. Stockhouse also split a Saturday doubleheader with Nova, winning the first game, 5-3, before dropping the second game, 4-1.

Last season, Libby-Mitchell defeated Nova for the district championship but Nova bounced back to win the state tournament. Nova is made up of players from Deering High, which has won the past three Class A state championships. Also on the team is recent Major League Baseball draft pick Matt Watson, who transferred from Deering to Pompano Beach (Fla.) High School for his senior year.

Watson was taken in the 26th round of the 2009 draft by the Houston Astros. Nova teammate Regan Flaherty was drafted in the 28th round by the Seattle Mariners.

Libby-Mitchell and Stockhouse play under the lights last Friday at Scarborough High School.

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