Favorites: St. John’s of Shrewsbury (17-5), Nashoba (17-3)
Contenders: Shepherd Hill (15-4), Wachusett (14-6), Shrewsbury (13-7), Leominster (13-7)
Dark horses: Algonquin (11-9), Doherty (13-7), St. Peter-Marian (11-11)
Overview: St. John’s figures to be the most battle-tested of the bunch. Four of their five losses are to the Catholic Conference, which includes a season split with BC High and a sweep by St. John’s Prep by a total of three runs. But keep an eye on Algonquin, which upset SJS in 12 innings last week, giving them nine wins in their last 10 after an abysmal 2-8 start. Few teams are hotter right now than the Tomahawks, the defending D1 Central champs and last year’s state runner-up. Elsewhere, a trio of contenders find themselves in the “Group of Death” in the upper right quadrant – Shepherd Hill, and the winner of Leominster vs. St. Peter-Marian. Keep an eye on Wachusett, which could see Nashoba in the semifinals in a rematch of the 3-0 Chieftains victory from May 9.
Hall’s Pick: St. John’s over Leominster, Nashoba over Wachusett in semifinals; St. John’s over Nashoba in finals.
Favorites: Northbridge (18-2), Auburn (16-4)
Contenders: Blackstone Valley Tech (16-4), Hudson (15-6), Assabet (15-5)
Dark horses: Lunenburg (11-5), Worcester Tech (10-10), Nipmuc (11-9)
Overview: The cards are certainly stacked in favor of a Northbridge-Auburn final in this bracket, but a few bumps along the way could throw a wrench in those plans. Valley Tech is coming off a heated loss to Whittier in the State Vocational Finals, and has one of the best two-players of the field in Dan Avery. Elsewhere, Mid-Wach B runner-up Hudson could challenge on Northbridge’s side of the bracket, but a 10-1 pounding by Auburn two weeks ago is cause for concern.
Hall’s Pick: Northbridge over Hudson, Auburn over Blackstone Valley Tech in semifinals; Northbridge over Auburn in finals.
Favorites: Hopedale (16-3), Littleton (16-2), Oxford (14-6)
Contenders: West Boylston (14-4), Uxbridge (13-6), Maynard (12-6), Tyngsborough (12-8)
Dark horses: Douglas (13-7), Quaboag (11-9)
Overview: It will be tough to get around Hopedale and its two aces, Dan Mantoni (39 IP, 64 K, 1.26 ERA) and Ian Strom (39 IP, 63 K, 1.43 ERA), and they have been among the best hitting teams in the second half of the season. The Blue Raiders are a perfect 8-0 this season against fellow participants in this bracket, including season sweeps of Oxford, Sutton and Douglas. But keep an eye on Quaboag’s Thomas Jankins (52.1 IP, 100 K, 0.53 ERA; .473, 19 RBI), a Quinnpiac signee who is the most talented individual in the field.
Hall’s Pick: Hopedale over Quaboag, Oxford over Littleton in semifinals; Hopedale over Oxford in finals.