ORONO, Maine — One key to Sam Dexter’s baseball success at Messalonskee High School in Oakland has been his ability to control the game in multiple ways.
The four-time Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference all-star and 2012 KVAC Class A North player of the year was a force offensively — batting .475 this spring with 24 runs scored, 16 RBIs, a .568 on-base percentage and a .729 slugging percentage.
But just as lethal to opponents was Dexter’s glove, and at no time was the senior shortstop’s defensive presence more important than during Messalonskee’s final two victories in its recent run to the 2012 Class A state championship.
Dexter did not have a hit in either the Eagles’ 13-2 victory over Lewiston in the Eastern Maine final or their 6-3 win over Scarborough in last Saturday’s state championship game.
But while teaming with his brother Jake, a freshman second baseman, Dexter started three key double plays in those games and had nine assists overall to go with two putouts in a flawless defensive display.
“As long as we win, I can live with that,” said Dexter, a finalist for the Dr. John W. Winkin Award, symbolic of the state’s Mr. Baseball, and one of 45 players from throughout the state who will be part of Friday’s Maine Senior All-Star Classic at the University of Maine.
Game time is 6 p.m., with the Winkin Award to be presented shortly before the first pitch. Other finalists are Max Andrews of John Bapst of Bangor, Corbin Hyde of Lewiston, Dustin Sawtelle of Lee Academy, J.T. Whitten of Waterville, Luke Fernandes of Marshwood of South Berwick, Ben Holmes of Dirigo of Dixfield and Ben Wessel of Scarborough.
Dexter’s role in leading Messalonskee to its first state title since winning the Class B crown in 1973 was just the latest chapter in a storied senior season of interscholastic competition.
He was named the Pine Tree Conference Class A player of the year last fall after leading the Eagles to the Eastern A semifinals by amassing 1,786 all-purpose yards, 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions, an effort that also earned him All-PTC first-team status as a wide receiver, cornerback and kick returner.
Last winter he helped Messalonskee win its first Eastern B hockey championship, with the first-line forward scoring a school-record 48 goals to go with 31 assists for 79 points in 22 games.
This spring, his leadership came off the field as well as on the diamond as he and classmates Travis St. Pierre and Gage Landry — the only three seniors on the Messalonskee baseball team — led a resurgence from a 5-5 start to a 10-game winning streak culminating in the state title.
“We just decided that we had to bring more energy to what we were doing,” said Dexter, who plans to play baseball at the University of Southern Maine next season.
Perhaps Dexter’s biggest play of the postseason came during the fifth inning of the state final, shortly after Messalonskee rallied from a 2-0 deficit with four unearned runs in the top of the fourth.
Sam Terry, Scarborough’s No. 8 hitter, opened the fifth with a walk and was poised to move into scoring position with the top of the order due up until Dexter dove to his right to make a backhanded stop of Greg Viola’s hard-hit drive bound for the shortstop hole.
Dexter quickly threw to Jake Dexter to force out Terry at second, and that started a double play.
“I knew it was a big spot in the game,” said Dexter after the game. “I knew we were capable of turning the double play after I got it and Jake made a good throw to spin it.”
Not only did the play kill any immediate hopes of a Scarborough rally, it denied the Red Storm a chance to regain the game’s momentum.
“The Dexter kid obviously makes them go,” said Scarborough coach Mike Coutts after the state final. “He made a key play when it was 4-2 and Viola hit into that double play. The kid played well.”
That set the stage for Dexter and the Eagles to finish off something that had eluded them during hockey season, the chance to hold the biggest trophy.
“You’re happy about the Eastern Maine win, but then there’s that one more win that’s out there,” said Dexter. “You always hear about the West and how great they are, and they are great ballplayers and they’re well coached. But it means a lot to get that last win.”