Ellsworth's Devin Grindle (left) celebrates after tagging Old Town's Jacob Ketch out at second during their semifinal baseball game in Old Town, June 10, 2017. Credit: Ashley L. Conti

When Dan Curtis sifts through the Heal Point ratings for Class B North baseball this spring, he’s learned that, with 21 teams in the division this year, it can be a time-consuming task.

“It’s a two-pager,” the Ellsworth High School head coach joked.

Curtis and his team, off to a 3-1 start this season after going 13-6 and advancing to the regional semifinals a year ago, hope they don’t have to look far down that list as the road to the 2018 postseason continues.

“I don’t know that anybody can predict anything this year,” Curtis said of a division that includes teams from the Penobscot Valley Conference and Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference including newcomers Brewer and Lawrence of Fairfield, which has moved down from Class A this spring.

Because of the deep field, 14 Class B North teams will qualify for postseason play with just the top two advancing directly to regional quarterfinals. It is the second largest baseball division statewide behind the 21-school Class D North.

“The top teams that will get byes, that’s going to be a great spot,” said Curtis, whose team was scheduled to host Washington Academy of East Machias on Tuesday. “But with those other teams through No. 14, there are going to be some great teams in that group, too.”

Among other teams expected to vie for those top spots in Class B North are Nokomis of Newport, the lone remaining undefeated team in the division entering this week’s play, two-time defending champion Old Town, Hermon, Brewer, Lawrence, Oceanside of Rockland, Erskine Academy of South China and Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor. The Trojans edged Ellsworth 5-4 in nine innings on April 24 in the first of two meetings between the Hancock County rivals.

Ellsworth is among the most experienced teams in Class B North, with nine seniors and six juniors on its 16-player roster. Curtis already has seen the difference a year of experience is making for his team.

“We’re definitely able to relax and not panic in those big situations,” he said. “We’re just able to take that deep breath and realize that it’s not the end of the world — it’s just another moment in your life.”

Shortstop Bradly Smith, outfielders Jack Lee and Jared Hamilton, and first baseman Sam Horne — all seniors — and sophomore second baseman Jackson Curtis occupied the top five spots in the batting order during the Eagles’ 7-0 win at Foxcroft Academy last Saturday.

That game showed Ellsworth near its best, combining an 11-hit offense with errorless defense and the shutout pitching of junior right-hander Conner Wagstaff.

“Our hopes are high, but we really can’t look past any team,” Wagstaff said. “(Foxcroft) is a good ball team right here so it was good to come out and put a few runs on them and provide a good cushion for whoever is out there pitching.”

Wagstaff, 2-0 after winning five games last year, is half of a hard-throwing pitching duo along with classmate Matt Burnett.

“For us the big thing is our pitching,” Curtis said. “We’ve got Wagstaff and Burnett that are both power pitchers and if they can really lock down then we can get away with that game when we only score three runs, we can still win that game. That’s going to be important for us.”

Unbeaten Bangor faces road stretch

The four-time defending Class A state champion Bangor baseball team improved to 5-0 with an 8-1 win over Cony of Augusta at Mansfield Stadium on Monday.

Pitching again was dominant for coach Dave Morris’ club, which has allowed only eight runs during its undefeated start and just four runs in its last four victories since a season-opening 5-4 win at Lewiston on April 18.

Bangor has had three home games so far to go with road games at Lewiston and Brewer (at the University of Maine’s Mahaney Diamond).

But the Rams will play 25 percent of their schedule before returning home again with four consecutive road games beginning with Tuesday’s game at Mt. Ararat of Topsham.

Bangor then will visit undefeated Oxford Hills of South Paris on Friday, Messalonskee of Oakland (May 7) and Camden Hills of Rockport (May 9) before hosting Brewer in a 7 p.m matchup on May 11.

Scholarship winners named

Five high school seniors will be awarded $5,000 Maine Sports Hall of Fame scholarships during the organization’s 2018 induction ceremony scheduled for June 3 at at the Collins Center for the Arts at UMaine in Orono.

Those scholarship winners are Jessica Brown of Portland (softball), Shelby Cowin of Greenville (skiing), Luke Groothoff of Yarmouth (soccer), Jake Martin of York (hockey and decathlon), and Annika Rogers of Islesboro (snowshoeing and sailing).

The recipients were selected from more than 200 applicants, with scholarships based on the students’ academic and athletic achievements and community service.

For additional information and tickets, visit the Maine Sports Hall of Fame website at mshof.com.

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...