With their 8-1 victory over defending two-time Class D North champion Stearns of Millinocket on Tuesday, the undefeated Howlers of Penobscot Valley High School firmly entrenched themselves as the team to beat in the division.
Freshman pitcher Leine McKechnie fired a three-hitter with 13 strikeouts for the 12-0 Howlers, who have outscored their opponents 156-16.
But who poses the biggest threat to PVHS of Howland, which seeks its first regional championship since the program claimed back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013?
PVHS beat Richmond in the 2012 state championship game but Richmond has captured the last four championships.
Even though PVHS swept its two games with Stearns, the 8-4 Minutemen remain the two-time defending regional champs. Their only four losses have come to Penobscot Valley and Class C unbeaten Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln.
Robert Betschner’s Southern Aroostook team from Dyer Brook entered a Thursday game at Ashland with an 8-2 record and seven wins in its last eight games.
The Warriors had scored at least nine runs in all but one of their games and were coming off a 24-3 win over a vastly improved Hodgdon team which had dealt them a 7-5 setback on May 1.
Southern Aroostook was 10-4 last season.
Hodgdon won its first nine games before dropping its last four, although three of the four losses have been by a combined four runs. The Hawks won only six games a year ago (6-8).
East Grand of Danforth has already matched last year’s win (7-8) total by going 7-4 and has an important home game on Friday with Southern Aroostook.
East Grand and Hodgdon split regular-season meetings.
East Grand had a three-game winning streak snapped by Woodland 5-4 on Wednesday.
Madawaska and Woodland each have posted victories in their last three games to improve to 7-3 and 8-4, respectively.
Madawaska was 9-4 a year ago before reaching the regional final where it was beaten by Stearns. Woodland was a 9-7 team in 2016 and two of its four losses have come to Narraguagus of Harrington, which is 12-2 in Class C North.
Schenck of East Millinocket could be a dangerous playoff opponent because the Wolverines have given the Howlers their most competitive game: A 7-5 setback on May 17.
Even though Schenck was 8-4 entering a Thursday game at Katahdin of Stacyville, the Wolverines were 14th and one spot out of a preliminary round berth. They finish up with home games against Penobscot Valley on Friday, Bangor Christian on May 29 and Stearns on May 31.