Jake Dexter of the University of Southern Maine, a two-time D3baseball.com first team All-American, has already pitched for the Los Angeles Angels’ Tempe-based Arizona League team.
Dexter, who signed a free agent contract with the Angels last weekend, took the mound against the Mariners’ franchise on Tuesday night.
Dexter was the Huskies’ closer and the starting second baseman and concluded his four-year USM career with a school-record 34 saves. He had a 16-9 overall record with a 2.08 ERA in 91 appearances. He struck out 148 147 1/3 innings and walked just 29.
Dexter, who played for Messalonskee High School in Oakland, was chosen a first-team All-America utility player each of the last two seasons.
Last spring, he led the Huskies to a 37-9 record and an NCAA Division III tournament appearance.
He notched a team-leading eight saves and was 2-2 with a 1.49 earned run average. He made 24 appearances, all in relief, and posted 39 strikeouts and only three walks over 36 1/3 innings. He surrendered just 21 hits.
Dexter allowed just one earned run over his last nine appearances spanning 16 2/3 innings with 17 strikeouts and two walks.
At the plate, he hit .373 with four home runs, 39 runs batted in and 44 runs scored in 2019.
“It’s great to be playing baseball,” the 22-year-old Dexter said. “When I began playing it, I wasn’t really thinking about becoming a pro. I played it because I liked it. It has always been a lot of fun. It’s a passion of mine.
“I was going to look to play in an independent league but this came up and it’s a great opportunity,” he added.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Dexter didn’t have a good outing on Tuesday but said, “I’ll learn from that. Baseball is every day day. You’re always working on something or tinkering with something.
“That’s what I love about it,” Dexter said.
USM coach Eddie Flaherty believes Dexter has the ability to progress in pro ball especially since he can now just focus on pitching.
“He has a turbo sinker that really sinks and a really good slider,” Flaherty said. “His sinker is in the 86, 87, 88 miles-an-hour range but now that he isn’t playing second base, I expect he’ll be able to add some miles an hour to it.”
“I’ll be able to get stronger and have fresher legs. You need stuff like that,” said Dexter.
Flaherty said Dexter’s pinpoint control is remarkable and relayed that some of those 29 walks in 147 1/3 innings “were ordered by me.”
Flaherty called Dexter a “tremendous athlete” and said he has outstanding gamesmanship.
“He knows how to get people out,” said Flaherty.
The USM coach, who has racked up 1,041 career wins and notched two NCAA Division III national championships in his 34 seasons at USM, pointed out that Dexter always pitched in pressure situations throughout his four seasons and it didn’t faze him. He got the job done.
“I brought him in during close, competitive games against good teams,” said Flaherty.
“Being in those situations definitely helped me,” Dexter said.
In his last game for the Huskies — a 7-6, 13-inning loss to New England College in the NCAA regional championship game — Dexter tossed 6 1/3 innings of three-hit relief and allowed an unearned run. He struck out six and walked one. He also went 4-for-7 at the plate.
He was a career .345 hitter with 104 RBIs.
Flaherty said Dexter is a student of the game and he is willing to try different things suggested to him by his coaches to make himself better.
“I love watching baseball and trying to learn as much as I can,” Dexter concurred.
Dexter said his sinker and slider are his go-to pitches.
“I live-and-die with those pitches. And I’ve got to go after hitters with them,” Dexter said.
He is confident in his abilities.
“I know I can get guys out. [Confidence] is a big part of the game,” Dexter said.
He said his time at USM playing for Flaherty was extremely beneficial.
“It has to be one of the best programs in the country: Division I, II or III,” said Dexter. “Just the way that it is run. It’s professional.”
He added that Flaherty “gives you the right tools to make yourself better” and develops his players on and off the field.
“He helps you mature,” Dexter said.
Dexter’s older brother Sam, the 2015 NCAA Division III Player of the Year at USM, was drafted in the 23rd round by the Chicago White Sox in 2016 but was released last year. Sam Dexter is now playing for the Milwaukee Milkmen of the American Association, an independent league.
In 200 career minor league games, Sam Dexter owns a .266 batting average.
Jake sought advice from his older brother after signing with the Angels.
“He told me to be myself. Don’t change too much. It’s a process,” Jake said.