OAKLAND, Maine — After flirting with the opportunity to compete for a spot on a Division I college baseball roster, Messalonskee High School three-sport standout Sam Dexter has decided to continue his athletic career at the University of Southern Maine beginning next fall.
“I feel like Southern Maine is a great fit for me,” said Dexter, the son of Colby College football defensive coordinator and former head baseball coach Tom Dexter.
“It’s not too far away from home, and I get to play for a great coach on a great team with a lot of winning experience.”
Dexter, a shortstop, is already a three-time Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A all-star in that sport, earning second-team honors in 2009 and first-team recognition each of the last two seasons for coach Ray Bernier’s club.
He also has been a standout football and hockey player at Messalonskee, most recently amassing 48 goals and 30 assists this winter in leading the Eagles to their first Eastern Maine Class B championship and a berth in last Saturday’s state final, where they fell to Greely of Cumberland Center 6-2.
Dexter last fall was named the Pine Tree Conference Class A football player of the year after totaling 1,649 all-purpose yards, 19 touchdowns and six interceptions while earning first-team all-conference honors as a wide receiver, cornerback and kick returner.
Dexter initially made a verbal commitment to accept a spot as a recruited walk-on with the Division I University of Massachusetts baseball program, but had a change of heart over the winter and opted instead to play for Maine’s most successful Division III baseball program at USM under 26th-year head coach Ed Flaherty.
“Not everything I wanted worked out at UMass,” said Dexter. “I told coach Flaherty to stay with me, that not everything was a done deal, and he did a great job of staying with me until the very end. When I made my decision he was pretty excited and I’m pretty excited.
One reason for Dexter’s switch in collegiate plans involves the improved prospects of playing immediately.
“[Current USM shortstop] Anthony Pisani is graduating this year, so shortstop’s open and maybe second base,” said Dexter, who has played both positions during his high school career. “Hopefully I can jump right in.”
Dexter received varying degrees of recruiting interest last summer, including from the likes of Boston College and Bryant University for baseball and Western New England and Stonehill for football.
But the chance to make a swift transition from the high school to college ranks in baseball prompted him to join a University of Southern Maine baseball program that has made six trips to the NCAA Division III College World Series under Flaherty, winning national championships in 1991 and 1997.
“I want to play, I want to keep playing and I want to win,” said Dexter. “I mainly want to have fun, but I feel like the whole package at Southern Maine gives me a chance to do that. I’m excited.”
Windjammer wrestlers bound for nationals
Rhett Chase, Anthony Batty and twins Brandon and Ryan Graffam have helped each other rise to the top of the state’s high school wrestling charts, as the four upper weight-class competitors led Camden Hills of Rockport to the 2012 Class B wrestling state championships.
“We’ve pushed each other all the way through,” said Chase. “We have different strengths, and we’ve learned from each other.”
Chase (220 pounds), Brandon Graffam (195) and Batty (182) each won an individual state championship for coach Levi Rollins’ Windjammers, while Ryan Graffam placed second at the state meet in the 170-pound division.
Chase subsequently went on to place fourth at the New England championships to finish his senior season with a 51-2 record.
Now the four fourth-year wrestlers plan to cap off their high school careers together at the National High School Coaches Association Senior Nationals, to be held March 29-April 1 at the Virginia Beach (Va.) Convention Center.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Chase, who was undefeated against in-state competition this winter. “I’ve heard the competition is pretty tough.”
The group must raise approximately $4,500 to cover the trip to Virginia Beach, and a benefit dinner and silent auction has been scheduled from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 23, at the Wave Cave at Camden Hills Regional High School. Donated items are being sought for the auction, and tickets to the event are $15 per person or $25 per family.
Those interested in donating items for the silent auction or making a monetary donation in support of the wrestlers may call Kama Chase at 807-8054 or Rhett Chase at 807-9055 for more information.
Indoor track stars shine at nationals
Several Maine indoor track and field competitors turned in top efforts at the New Balance Indoor Nationals held last weekend at the New York Armory.
Waterville High School junior Bethanie Brown earned All-American honors by finishing fourth in the girls’ 2-mile with a time of 10 minutes, 29.04 seconds. That time easily bested the current state meet record in the event of 10:48.28 set by Cassie Hintz of Old Town in 2005.
Brown previously won the 800, mile and 2-mile at this year’s Class B state championships, setting a state record in the mile of 5:02.15.
Mainers also finished 1-2 in the boys 1-mile race walk at the New Balance meet, with Edward Little of Auburn junior Luc Bourget winning the event in 7:17.03 while Medomak Valley of Waldoboro senior Ian Rixon placed second in 7:24.02.
Anita Dunn, a senior from Edward Little, won the girls 1-mile race walk in 7:28.13.