May 26, 2018
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Lewiston, Calais seek to defend regional baseball titles

By Ernie Clark, BDN Staff

It was a rough postseason for the No. 1 seeds in Eastern Maine high school baseball.

Class A leader Bangor and Class B top team Presque Isle were ousted in the quarterfinals, the other two first-place teams at the end of the regular season — Class C Orono and Class D Central Aroostook of Mars Hill — were eliminated in the semifinals.

But it hasn’t been so bad for the defending regional finalists, with three of the four 2011 EM champions back seeking to extend their title runs.

The finals begin Tuesday with the Eastern Maine Class A matchup between defending champion Lewiston and Messalonskee of Oakland set for a 5 p.m. first pitch at Morton Field in Augusta, while two-time defending regional titlist Calais will face Dexter in the Eastern C matchup at 7 p.m. at Bangor’s Mansfield Stadium.

In Class A, Lewiston won its first regional championship since 1950 last spring, edging Bangor in the East final before being defeated by Cheverus of Portland 9-1 in the state title game.

Coach Todd Cifelli’s second-seeded Blue Devils (15-3) graduated Mr. Baseball finalist Mekae Hyde, now playing at Bates College, but are led this spring by senior pitcher Corbin Hyde, who earned the win in Lewiston’s 6-2 quarterfinal victory over Brewer and is expected to get the start against Messalonskee.

Hyde, a lefthander, is 5-1 with an 0.61 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 46 innings. He’s also the team’s leading hitter with two home runs and 20 RBIs, while teammate Shawn Ricker is a .400 hitter.

Lewiston advanced to the final as Luke Cote pitched a one-hitter in Saturday’s 1-0 semifinal victory over Erskine Academy of South China.

Messalonskee, a consistent Eastern A contender in recent years, is seeking its first title since winning the 1973 Class B state crown as a Western Maine program.

Coach Ray Bernier’s fourth-ranked Eagles (13-5) edged Hampden Academy 3-2 in eight innings in their semifinal. That game was held at Erskine Academy because Messalonskee has not played any home games this spring due to construction at the school. Messalonskee has played most of its home games at Thomas College in Waterville, including a 10-0, six-inning quarterfinal victory over Oxford Hills of South Paris.

The Eagles are led offensively by University of Southern Maine-bound senior shortstop Sam Dexter (.500 batting average, 16 RBIs). Senior righthander Reid Nutter, who allowed just one hit while pitching a complete game in the quarterfinals, is expected to get the start against Lewiston. Nutter is 5-2 this spring with a 2.90 ERA.

Both teams enter the contest riding hot streaks, with Lewiston winning its last 11 games since an early season three-game losing streak. Messalonskee has won eight in a row.

These teams met once nearly two months ago, with Lewiston scoring a 9-2 win over Messalonskee on April 20.

In Class C, Calais is in search of its first state championship since 1976 after suffering narrow misses each of the last two years, falling to Dirigo of Dixfield 4-2 in the 2010 state final and to Saint Dominic of Auburn 5-4 in last spring’s title game.

Coach Kenny Murphy’s third-seeded Blue Devils are 17-1 this spring and 47-7-1 since the start of the 2010 season. That run has been sparked by senior righthander Adam Geel, who is 29-4 on the mound over the last four years, including a four-hit shutout in Calais’ 4-0 victory over Foxcroft in last year’s regional final.

Geel is 9-0 with six shutouts this spring along with 91 strikeouts in 55 ⅔ innings on the mound, while classmate Joe Mitchell worked a complete game in a 5-3 semifinal victory over Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln on Saturday that avenged the team’s lone loss this spring.

Geel also batted .580 with 21 RBIs during the regular season, while teammate Dylan Carter batted .408 with 21 RBIs.

Fourth-ranked Dexter (13-5) is seeking the program’s first regional crown since winning consecutive Eastern Maine Class B titles in 1970, ’71 and ’72.

The Tigers have been led by a trio of junior pitchers in Casey Jordan, Dylan Graffam and Matt Crane, with Crane the winning pitcher in both playoff games to date and Jordan the anticipated starter against Calais.

Coach Chad Graffam’s Tigers, who endured a three-game losing streak late in the season before winning their final two games, outlasted Bucksport 6-5 in the quarterfinals. Dylan Graffam doubled home the tying run in the bottom of the 11th and later scored the game-winner from third on a bases-loaded hit by pitch.

Dexter then knocked off top-seeded Orono 7-0 in Saturday’s semifinals, with Crane and Graffam combining on a one-hitter.

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