AUGUSTA, Maine — Exactly one month ago, the Messalonskee High School baseball team was riding back to Oakland after a one-run loss at Brewer, its .500 record leaving the Eagles disappointed but not defeated.
“We were pretty upset,” said senior third baseman Travis St. Pierre. “But after that we had a meeting and just decided we were going to step it up and we haven’t lost ever since.”
The team’s ninth straight victory during its current run came exactly one month later, a 13-2 drubbing of Lewiston in Tuesday’s Eastern Maine Class A final at Morton Field that earned Messalonskee its first regional title in the sport since winning the 1973 Class B state championship as a Western Maine program.
“We were sitting at 5-5, coming home from a loss at Brewer, and we were down in the dumps, probably in seventh or eighth place in the standings,” said senior shortstop Sam Dexter, a finalist for the state’s Mr. Baseball award. “But now we’ve ripped off nine straight and are Eastern Maine champions. It’s amazing.”
Fourth-ranked Messalonskee (14-5) will play for the state title at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish on Saturday against Western Maine champion Scarborough (17-2).
Second-seeded Lewiston, the 2011 Eastern Maine champion, ended its season with a 15-4 record.
This was a complete performance by coach Ray Bernier’s club, as Reid Nutter and two relievers combined to pitch a five-hitter while eight different batters contributed to a 14-hit attack that chased Mr. Baseball finalist Corbin Hyde early and left only modest hopes for a comeback by the Blue Devils.
Messalonskee broke on top with an unearned run in the top of the first inning and never trailed in avenging a 9-2 loss to Lewiston on April 20.
While Hyde, who was coming off a 131-pitch complete-game victory over Brewer in the quarterfinals last Thursday, made his first trip through the Messalonskee lineup without allowing a hit, the Eagles subsequently reached him for four more runs on six hits before he was taken out after yielding three straight hits to open the Messalonskee fourth inning.
“Toward the end of the season we tried to take the approach of being patient and seeing as many pitches as we could early in the game to get a feel for the pitcher so hopefully the second and third time around we could take advantage of it,” said Bernier. “Thankfully today we did.”
The Eagles extended their lead to 3-0 lead in the third inning on St. Pierre’s two-out, two-run double that drove home brothers Jake and Sam Dexter.
“It was a little high and inside and I just put my best swing on it,” said St. Pierre, who also delivered Messalonskee’s first run with a first-inning sacrifice fly. “I was looking for a fastball and once I saw it I was going to jump on it. The first time up I got the same pitch pretty much but just got under it to bring in the run from third, and I wasn’t going to miss it again.”
Messalonskee chased Hyde with three more runs in the top of the fourth, a rally highlighted by an RBI double by Zach Mathieu followed by an RBI single by Josh Woodard.
Devin Warren’s RBI single in the the fifth made it 7-0 before Lewiston finally broke through with an unearned run in the bottom of the inning, as Alex Small walked, went to third on an errant pickoff throw and scored on an infield hit by Nate Berube.
But Jake Dexter, one of three freshmen in the Messalonskee lineup, hit a two-run double to center in the sixth inning, then hit another two-run double to left in the seventh two batters after Woodard had singled home two runs to extend the Eagles’ lead to 13-1.
Nutter (6-2) scattered three hits while walking five and striking out four in 4 1/3 innings. The righthander never retired the side in order but never allowed a baserunner before two were out until the fifth inning, when he gave way to Pat Breton with a run in and two aboard.
Breton stranded those two baserunners by retiring the Blue Devils’ Nos. 3 and 4 hitters, Luke Cote and Shawn Ricker, then used a double play that began with a nice backhanded stop by Sam Dexter to retire Lewiston without incident in the sixth.
Jake Dexter pitched the seventh for the Eagles, yielding one unearned run.
Warren and No. 9 hitter Gage Landry each had three hits for Messalonskee, while Jake Dexter had two doubles, four RBIs and two runs scored from the leadoff spot. St. Pierre had three RBIs with a double and a sacrifice fly, while Woodard singled twice, drove home three runs and scored twice.
Berube singled twice and drove home both of Lewiston’s runs, while Eddie Emerson added a double.