A high school baseball regular season full of intrigue now turns to its second season today, as the playoffs begin. Six local teams qualified for the postseason, and they range large-school heavyweights to small-school underdogs.

No local team had a better regular season than the Biddeford Tigers, who went 14-2 and earned the No. 3 seed in Western Class A.

The Tigers graduated nine seniors from last year, but head coach Keith Leblanc said he wasn’t ready to call this season’s success a surprise.

“I thought we could be good; I thought a lot of pieces kind of had to come together to have a good season,” said Leblanc. “I didn’t really anticipate us being 14-2, but I thought we could be one of the top teams.”

Leblanc said he had questions about his pitching depth behind No. 1 starter Nate Huot, but many of those questions were answered positively. Huot turned into an ace ”“ Leblanc said having command of all three pitches has been the key ”“ and senior Corey Creeger, junior Casey Twomey and freshman Brady Crepeau all took turns filling the gaps.

Crepeau, in particular, proved to be a major asset for Leblanc, as he did well more than expected.

“Going into the season, a lot of times, you don’t really plan on a freshman having that big of a contribution,” said Leblanc, “but he really has been a catalyst for us, on the mound and with his bat.”

Leblanc said the six hitters in his batting order can match up against anybody, with Creeger and Kerry Crepeau’s on-base prowess and speed, followed by the potential big boppers of Twomey, senior Corey Brown, Huot and Brady Crepeau.

Another good offensive team, according to Leblanc, is the Kennebunk Rams. Despite playing a Class B schedule, the Rams were able to secure the No. 7 seed in Western Class A, and with it, a home game in the preliminary round.

“I thought there was some pretty good competition in the (Western Maine Conference). Obviously not quite from top to bottom like the SMAA is. But it was good for us,” said Kennebunk head coach Brian Dill. “Going forward, we’ll see. Maybe that will prove our downfall going forward.

“We scrimmaged mostly SMAA schools in the preseason, and I would say that the good teams in the Western Maine Conference are comparable to the good teams in the SMAA.”

The Rams will host No. 10 Westbrook today, and despite the Blue Blazes’ 9-7 record, they will be no pushover according to Dill.

“They’re the defending Class A champions, so they definitely knew how to win,” said Dill. “I haven’t seen them ”“ I talked to a few other coaches ”“ they’ll be a good test for us.

“It’s hard to pick baseball games. You get a pitcher that’s hot, or a mistake in the outfield, or whatever, and it can change it around a little bit.”

Thornton Academy (No. 8) and Sanford (No. 12) also qualified for the Western Class A tournament. The Trojans will host No. 9 Cheverus today in a rematch of a game Thornton won 4-3 late in the season.

The Spartans were the last team to make the playoffs, and had to wait until the finals days to clinch that berth, and will be greeted by No. 5 Scarborough, a perennial power that slipped a little this season. The Spartans are the very definition of a pesky team that can upset even the likeliest of favorites. The Red Storm did win the only regular season matchup, 9-4 in Scarborough in late May.

Biddeford gets a bye into the quarterfinals, where it will have to face a tough out in either No. 6 Portland or No. 11 Windham.

“Either team I think is going to be a really good game when we face them on Thursday,” said Leblanc.

Leblanc predicted that the Western Class A tournament could be anything but, as the league displayed more parity than in previous years.

“I think Cheverus is one of the better teams in the league, and they’re the nine seed. It just kind of goes to show you that any team can beat anybody else,” said Leblanc. “I could see all those prelim games going either way. Onto the quarterfinal round, I see the same thing.”

Adding to the intrigue is Kennebunk and fellow Western Maine Conference member Falmouth, the No. 2 seed. Both teams provide a measure of mystery, as they didn’t play the SMAA teams during the regular season, and the unknown could create some unrest in the bracket.

The two other local teams that made the playoffs will enter their brackets as underdogs. Wells finished eighth in the 10-team Western Class B playoff field. The Warriors will host No. 9 Freeport in the prelims, a rematch of an early season game that Wells won 3-0 to cap off a 3-0 start. The Warriors went just 6-7 after that as they received uneven performances from a young core.

Youth was also the theme for Western Class C qualifier Old Orchard Beach. The Seagulls finished 6-10 to claim the second-to-last spot in their playoff bracket, with a very coachable team ”“ according to head coach Keil Martin ”“ showing growing pains throughout the season against a very competitive group of small-school WMC teams.

Leblanc, the Biddeford baseball coach, said the key to success in the playoffs, regardless of class, is fairly clear. And it’s something that his team was able to replicate during its stellar regular season.

“To get through the tournament, you really got to play consistent, play good defense and get those timely hits when you need them,” said Leblanc.

— Staff Writer Wil Kramlich can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 323 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @WilTalkSports.

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