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MIAA BASEBALL TOURNAMENT PREVIEW

Breaking down the North and South brackets for the MIAA baseball tournament

The Xaverian baseball team celebrated a win over BC High during the regular season, and the Hawks hope to add a Division 1 South championship to their 2021 resúmé.
The Xaverian baseball team celebrated a win over BC High during the regular season, and the Hawks hope to add a Division 1 South championship to their 2021 resúmé.Gretchen Ertl/The Boston Globe

The MIAA baseball state tournament begins Friday with preliminary round matchups, kicking off a two-week sprint to the state championship games July 3. Not only is there no Super 8 Tournament this season, but every team was eligible for the state tournament, making each sectional deeper than ever before.

In total, 175 teams from Eastern Mass. will be participating in this year’s state tournament, up from 125 in 2019. Here’s a breakdown of each sectional with favorites, sleepers, and players to watch.

Division 1 North

Favorites: St. John’s Prep, Andover, Central Catholic

Sleepers: Lincoln-Sudbury, Lowell, Lexington

Outlook: No. 4 St. John’s Prep (10-3) is the fourth seed and will be playing in its first sectional tournament since 2013 after making the Super 8 each of the last six years. The Eagles, who lost twice to Xaverian and once to BC High, have a talented pitching staff led by ace Sam Belliveau, and the lineup is anchored by DJ Pacheco and Pat D’Amico. Prep’s biggest challengers will be from a trio of Merrimack Valley teams in Andover, Central Catholic, and Lowell, all of which boast wins over teams ranked in the Globe’s Top 20. Reigning D1 North champ Lincoln-Sudbury is the No. 2 seed and will be a factor after claiming the Dual County League title. A talented Lexington team seeded 10th is also playing its best baseball down the stretch.

Division 1 South

Favorites: Xaverian, Franklin, Wellesley, Braintree

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Sleepers: BC High, Walpole, Bridgewater-Raynham, Catholic Memorial, Taunton, Plymouth North

Outlook: This bracket is loaded, featuring seven teams inside the top 13 of the Globe rankings. Top-ranked Xaverian (12-1) is poised to make a run with a deep pitching staff and lineup headlined by Henry Fleckner and Matt Brinker. The third-seeded Hawks won both the Catholic Conference regular-season and tournament titles. No. 3 Franklin (13-1) is the top seed and cruised through the Hockomock League once again, outscoring opponents by an average of five runs per game. From the Bay State Conference, fifth-seeded Wellesley and sixth-seeded Braintree present dangerous lineups and strong pedigrees. BC High is the No. 13 seed after an 8-7 season, but six of its seven losses came against No. 1 Xaverian, No. 2 Austin Prep, and No. 4 St. John’s Prep. Lefthander Shea Sprague is one of the top arms in the bracket and BC High coach Norm Walsh likes how his team is playing heading into the tournament. Catholic Memorial, the only team to beat Xaverian this season, lurks as a 15 seed. Reigning D1 South champion and seventh-seeded Taunton has won five straight.

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Division 2 North

Favorites: North Andover, St. Mary’s

Sleepers: Arlington, Wakefield, Masconomet, Reading

Outlook: Second seed North Andover (12-2), the 2019 Super 8 champion, is geared up for another run at hardware with Brendan Holland, Brett Dunham, and Charlie Griffin — all Division 1 arms — in the rotation. Led by junior Aiven Cabral, 2019 D2 state champion St. Mary’s had won nine straight before falling to Austin Prep in Tuesday’s Catholic Central League title game. The sixth-seeded Spartans (15-6) allowed just two total runs during the nine-game streak. Arlington and Wakefield had strong seasons in the Middlesex League and will be tough outs. Annual D2 contender Masco enters having won six of seven, including a win over St. Mary’s. Under first-year coach Dave Blanchard, surging Reading won the Middlesex League Tournament on Monday and has momentum.

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Charlie Walker and Milton will be a factor in the Division 2 South bracket.
Charlie Walker and Milton will be a factor in the Division 2 South bracket.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Division 2 South

Favorites: Milton, Nauset, Hopkinton, Whitman-Hanson

Sleepers: Bishop Feehan, Plymouth South, North Attleborough

Outlook: Another strong bracket is headlined by second-seeded Milton, which won the Bay State Conference Tournament over Braintree and would have been selected to the Super 8 field this year. The Wildcats (14-2) have stellar pitching, led by junior aces Charlie Walker and Brian Foley. Top-seeded Nauset went undefeated in the Cape & Islands League, while reigning D2 South champion Hopkinton (10-3) had a solid season in the Tri-Valley League and resided in the Globe Top 20 all season. Whitman-Hanson is fresh off a Patriot Cup crown. Seventh-seeded Bishop Feehan will give Milton all it can handle in a potential quarterfinal matchup. North Attleborough and senior righthander Dennis Colleran will face surging Oliver Ames in an intriguing Hockomock League first-round matchup.

Coach Jonathan Pollard and No. 2-ranked Austin Prep as the top seed in Division 3 North.
Coach Jonathan Pollard and No. 2-ranked Austin Prep as the top seed in Division 3 North.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Division 3 North

Favorite: Austin Prep

Sleepers: Latin Academy, Stoneham, Newburyport, North Reading, Amesbury, Gloucester

Outlook: Second-ranked Austin Prep, the top seed, is the overwhelming favorite in D3 North after an 18-1 regular season. The potent lineup is paced by senior Jake Elbeery and junior Ernie Little, and averaged more than nine runs per game, while the pitching staff fueled by junior lefthanders Evan Blanco and Jack Iannibelli held opponents to fewer than two runs per game. Slugging Newburyport (6.3 runs) won the Cape Ann Kinney Division and could be dangerous as a 5 seed. North Reading and Amesbury are other Cape Ann teams that might make a run as lower seeds. Third-seeded Latin Academy won the City League regular-season title, while sixth-seeded Gloucester went 10-4 in the Northeastern Conference.

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Division 3 South

Favorites: Medfield, Middleborough, Bishop Stang

Sleepers: Dedham, Apponequet, Scituate, Falmouth

Outlook: Fifth-ranked Medfield (15-1) is the third seed and has state title aspirations with a talented upperclassman-laden team. The Warriors ended the regular season on a 13-game winning streak and the lineup led by Sam Palmer, Jack Goodman, and Sam Kornet can score runs in an instant. Middleborough (14-0) is the top seed after an undefeated season in the South Shore League. The Sachems held opponents to fewer than three runs per game. Sixth-seeded Bishop Stang was 11-1 before ending the season with four straight losses in the Catholic Central. Stang has the ability to turn it around with a well-balanced club and a trio of lefthanded starters.

Snowden celebrated the Boston City League championship win over Latin Academy, clinching the No, 1 seed in Division 4 North.
Snowden celebrated the Boston City League championship win over Latin Academy, clinching the No, 1 seed in Division 4 North.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Division 4 North

Favorites: Snowden, Hamilton-Wenham

Sleepers: Manchester Essex, Lowell Catholic

Outlook: This will be the smallest sectional with just 11 teams. Snowden is the top seed after knocking off Latin Academy in the City League title game. The Cougars (11-2) have serious power at the plate with Richard Matos and an ace in righthander Justin Chevere. Third-seeded Hamilton-Wenham should be Snowden’s biggest challenger. Ryan Hutchinson leads the rotation and catcher Nick Freni has some serious pop at the dish. Eighth-seeded Manchester Essex, the 2019 D4 state champion, won six of nine to end the season.

Division 4 South

Favorites: Abington, Mashpee, Cohasset, St. John Paul II

Sleepers: West Bridgewater, Archbishop Williams, Westport

Outlook: Top-seeded West Bridgewater (6-0) was one of two undefeated Mayflower teams this season, but overall this may be the hardest bracket to handicap. There are several teams near the top that could make a run, including a young second-seeded Westport squad and a St. John Paul II team that won the Cape & Islands League Lighthouse Division and earned the third seed. Abington, Mashpee, and Cohasset are teams from the South Shore League capable of a deep run. Archbishop Williams, the 16th seed, is an annual D4 contender and won four of its final six after an 0-7 start in the difficult Catholic Central.

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