Two weeks remain until the final day of the high school baseball regular season, and just three teams statewide remain undefeated.
Bangor improved to 12-0 Monday with a 5-0 victory over Lawrence of Fairfield and the Rams are secure atop the Eastern Maine Class A standings.
Coach Jeff Fahey’s club, seeking its first state title since 2006 and first regional title since 2007, has used utter balance to earn its way to the top. The Rams’ pitching staff, featuring lefthanders Joe Stanevicz and Nate Lewis and righty Kyle Savage, have allowed just three opponents to score more than three runs in a game, and none more than six.
A deep lineup, meanwhile, is averaging nearly nine runs per contest, with contributions ranging from leadoff hitter Lonnie Hackett to No 9 batter Jack Stacey.
And the defense has been solid, too, averaging a little more than one error per game.
Like Bangor, Stearns of Millinocket has used its pitching depth to remain unbeaten and rise to the top of the Class C Heal point ratings.
Coach Brandon Portwine’s club boasts the three-pitcher rotation of Aaron Cyr, Garen Manzo and Maxx Bouchard, who have helped Stearns post four shutouts and allow just 13 runs through its 11-0 start after Monday’s 5-2 win over Central of Corinth.
The Minutemen are in search of the first Eastern C and state championships since 2000.
The third surviving unbeaten, as of Monday, was Western B frontrunner Cape Elizabeth, which improved to 10-0 with a 1-0 win over Freeport on Monday.
There are plenty of battles shaping up for home-field advantage and just to qualify for postseason play under the Maine Principals’ Association’s 50 percent rule.
Here’s a look at the Eastern Maine races:
Class A: Bangor and defending regional champion Cony of Augusta, who played a close contest at Mansfield Stadium in their only regular-season meeting May 7 before Bangor emerged with a 4-2 victory, have established them as the clear frontrunners for the top two seeds.
Oxford Hills of South Paris, which got off to a 7-0 start before suffering back-to-back losses to Brewer and Cony, is in the next tier, along with Brewer, Lewiston, Brunswick and Edward Little of Auburn.
Messalonskee of Oakland comfortably holds the eighth and final playoff spot over No. 9 Mt. Blue of Farmington.
Class B: Waterville remains the dominant team despite a 3-2 loss to Western B’s Maranacook of Readfield a week ago. Coach Don Sawyer’s club has pitching depth, a powerful offense, experience and the motivation of having lost in last year’s Eastern Maine final to Gardiner, a team the Purple Panthers defeated Monday to improve their record to 10-1.
The rest of the division is quite unpredictable, both in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference where Waterville resides, and in the Penobscot Valley Conference, where Ellsworth, Bucksport, John Bapst of Bangor, Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor, Presque Isle and Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln have all had hot streaks.
As for the KVAC, Winslow is having a solid season, while Gardiner was cruising along until being upended by Belfast last week, a win that puts the Lions in the playoff hunt.
Camden Hills of Rockport held the 10th and final playoff berth after a win Monday over Medomak Valley of Waldoboro, and the Windjammers have several pointworthy games remaining against the likes of Belfast (twice), Maranacook, Winslow and Lincoln Academy of Newcastle.
Class C: Stearns has shown the ability to win close games — including four one-run decisions — which bodes well for the Minutemen’s quest for playoff success.
Foxcroft Academy, meanwhile, has won nine straight since losing its season opener against Searsport, and the Ponies boast a blend of experience and depth that comes to the forefront during the playoffs.
Calais, one of the younger contenders in the division, has used strong pitching as well as a solid defense to emerge from the Downeast Athletic Conference pack, while Searsport has rebounded after a tough 2009 campaign thanks in part to that early win over Foxcroft, to remain in the mix for home-field advantage in the quarterfinals.
Orono has been somewhat unpredictable but is another dangerous team in the division, while Penobscot Valley of Howland, Washington Academy of East Machias, Narraguagus of Harrington have moved into contention.
Houlton began the week as the 10th and final playoff team, edging a Sumner of East Sullivan team that had won four of five games after an 0-5 start.
And lurking in 12th is tradition-laden George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill, which was off to an uncharacteristically rocky start but is a team no one wants to face in June.
Class D: Shead of Eastport has allowed three or fewer runs in each of its games since outslugging Narraguagus 16-12 in its season opener, and that stellar pitching has lifted coach Ron Sullivan’s club to the top of the regional standings.
Central Aroostook of Mars Hill and Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook began the week with just one loss each, with Wisdom of Saint Agatha was in a virtual tie with Southern Aroostook for the fourth spot.
But there are plenty of other teams that carry legitimate playoff aspirations into the final two weeks of play, including Jonesport-Beals, Machias, Deer-Isle Stonington, Katahdin of Stacyville, Bangor Christian and Greater Houlton Christian Academy.
Just nine Eastern D teams qualify for postseason play.
CAHS suffers 1st loss by forfeit
The Central Aroostook baseball team fell from the unbeaten ranks Friday in an unusual manner.
The Panthers played Greater Houlton Christian in a doubleheader Friday, winning the first game 20-1. The second game was tied at 10-10 when the game was halted by darkness, but it ultimately the became a forfeit victory for the Eagles.
According to CAHS coach Brent York, Kasey Brewer pitched four innings for the Panthers in the first game of the doubleheader, then returned to pitch one inning in the second game — a combination of innings that is in violation of Maine Principals’ Association rules.
York thought a pitcher could work a total of six innings in a doubleheader regardless of how the innings were divided between games. But under the rule, a pitcher who works in both games of a doubleheader against the same team shall not pitch more than three innings per game.
“I’ll remember that rule now,” said York.
Covell leaves Lawrence post
Lawrence baseball coach Wally Covell stepped down from that post last week in order to spend more time with his ailing wife.
Covell guided the Bulldogs for nine seasons, including a 2-6 mark this spring.
John Hersom, Lawrence’s varsity football coach and junior varsity baseball coach, has taken over the varsity baseball reins in Covell’s absence.