Before the MIAA state softball tournaments get underway this afternoon, we're breaking down the brackets and picking some winners.
Favorites: Chelmsford (19-1), Lynn Classical (20-2), Malden (17-3)
Sleepers: Concord-Carlisle (17-3), Central Catholic (15-3), Acton-Boxborough (15-5)
Barboza's take: Chelmsford claimed the top seed after turning a nearly flawless (minus one hiccup against Methuen) regular season as MVC Large champions and enter the tournament as favorite. Lynn Classical looks to continue its storybook season while Malden will go as far as ace Kiara Amos can take them. Central Catholic could be the one to watch here as it may have the strongest pitcher in the bracket with Meg Donegan.
Prediction: Chelmsford over Central Catholic and Acton-Boxborough over Bishop Fenwick in the semifinals; Chelmsford over A-B in final.
Favorites: Amesbury (18-2), Burlington (18-2), Reading (17-3)
Sleepers: Dracut (14-5), Tewksbury (14-6), Stoneham (11-9)
Barboza's take: Amesbury enters as the top seed, but you could say that Burlington, who finished atop the Middlesex League, is the favorite to come out of this sectional. Fellow Middlesex entrants Reading and Stoneham should also prove to be tough outs. Burlington's potential quarter-final matchup against Dracut could determine the winner.
Prediction: Reading over Tewksbury and Burlington over Saugus in semifinals; Burlington over Reading in final.
Favorites: Whittier (18-2), St. Mary's of Lynn (18-2)
Sleepers: Marian (15-5), Latin Academy (14-6)
Barboza's take: Akin to their girls' hockey team, until someone unseats St. Mary's, it's their tournament.
Prediction: Whittier over Marian and St. Mary's over Shawsheen; St. Mary's over Whittier.
Favorites: King Philip (20-0), Norwood (18-0)
Sleepers: Mansfield (18-2), Bridgewater-Raynham (17-3), New Bedford (13-7)
Barboza's take: King Philip and Norwood have been the two most dominant teams in Eastern Mass and went wire-to-wire ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively in our ESPN Boston Top 25 poll. We're looking for the matchup of KP ace Meghan Rico going head-to-head with the Mustangs' Ali Maloof and Lauren Duggan.
Prediction: King Philip over B-R and Norwood over New Bedford in the semifinals; KP over Norwood in the final.
Favorites: Abington (19-1), Hopkinton (18-2)
Sleepers: Coyle-Cassidy (16-4), Bellingham (16-4), Dedham (14-6), Plymouth South (13-7)
Barboza's take: This section is stacked from seed No. 1 to No. 21 and might be the most intriguing in the state. South Shore champion Abington and TVL crown-winners Hopkinton take the top two seeds, but we see this one as wide open with the potent Coyle-Cassidy and Bellingham lineups able to tear through top-flight pitching. We also wouldn't be surprised to see Plymouth South emerge from the back the pack.
Prediction: Abington over Coyle-Cassidy and Plymouth South over Bellingham in semifinals; Abington over Plymouth South in the final.
Favorites: Nantucket (17-3), Avon (16-4), Case (14-6)
Sleepers: Bishop Connolly (17-3), Bristol-Plymouth (13-4)
Barboza's take: It's always hard to pick against the alma mater, and Connolly's had a fine season, but we can't help but think this one comes down to Avon and Case. Nantucket will look to hold serve as the top seed.
Prediction: Avon over Nantucket and Case over Connolly in semifinals; Case over Avon in the final.
Favorite: Milford (19-1)
Sleepers: St. Peter-Marian (17-3), Holy Name (14-4), Shrewsbury (15-5)
Barboza's take: We've pegged the Scarlet Hawks as the favorite from Day 1 and they've maintained the No. 3 position in our statewide Top 25 poll all season long. The question is whether St. Peter-Marian, Holy Name or Shrewsbury have enough to pull off an upset.
Prediction: Milford over Shrewsbury and St. Peter-Marian over Holy Name in semifinals; Milford over SP-M in the final.
Favorite: Hudson (18-2)
Sleepers: Narragansett (18-2), Grafton (17-3)
Barboza's take: Much like D3 North is to St. Mary's, D2 Central is to Hudson. It's simply the Hawks' world and everybody else lives in it. We wouldn't be at all surprised if Hudson repeats at state champions behind Jurnee Ware.
Prediciton: Naragansett over Groton-Dunstable and Hudson over Grafton in semifinals; Hudson over Naragansett in the final.
Favorites: Assabet (16-2), Uxbridge (16-4)
Sleepers: Hopedale (15-5), Worcester Tech (15-5)
Barboza's take: We're looking for the top seeds to bear out in this one, until the semifinals.
Prediction: Assabet over Hopedale and Uxbridge over Murdock; Uxbrudge over Assabet.
Favorite: Amherst (19-1)
Sleeper: Agawam (16-4)
Barboza's take: Most, including us who had Amherst ranked No. 4 in the state to begin the season, thought the Hurricans would run away and hide this season. That is until Agawam dealt them a shocking defeat midway through the spring. Amherst later returned the favor, beating the Brownies in the teams' second meeting. Now, we're looking forward to a third.
Prediction: Amherst over West Springifled and Agawam over East Longmeadow in semifinals; Amherst over Agawam in the final.
Favorite: Wahconah (19-1)
Sleeper: Palmer (16-4)
Barboza's take: When in doubt, take the seedings.
Prediction: Wahconah over Palmer in the final.
Favorite: Turners Falls (20-0)
Sleeper: Ware (15-3)
Barboza's take: Turners Falls has been perhaps the most dominant team in the state, not named King Philip, throughout the season. And we don't see the defending D3 West champs taking a fall in this tourney.
Prediction: Turners Falls over Gateway and Ware over Mt. Everett in semifinals; Turners Falls over Ware in the final.