Wednesday, March 12, 2014
By Tom Chard firstname.lastname@example.org
GORHAM -- University of Southern Maine freshman shortstop Sam Dexter is the son of a coach so it stands to reason he has an edge on many players his age when it comes to understanding the nuances of baseball.
HONORED: University of Southern Maine shortstop Sam Dexter, a Messalonskee graduate, was named the All-New England Region Baseball Rookie of the Year.
Portland Press Herald photo by Gabe Souza
That hasn't stopped Dexter's thirst for learning more. In fact, it's probably whetted his appetite.
"Sam picks things up quickly and he wants to know more," said USM coach Ed Flaherty.
As an example, Flaherty told about getting a text message from Dexter after a game earlier in the season asking about a cutoff play. The ball was hit down the line in short left field with a runner on first. Dexter wanted to remove any question he had of whether he should cut to third base or to second. The short answer was that he should cut to second because you want keep the hitter on first.
"I was impressed that he would take the time to text me," said Flaherty. "Not too many freshman would do that."
Flaherty knew he was getting a gem when he was recruiting Dexter out of Messalonskee High in Oakland.
"He is everything I thought he would be and more. If he's not the best freshman I've had at USM, he's certainly one of the best. I've had good ones, but this kid is special," said Flaherty, in his 28th season with the Huskies.
Dexter, 19, has been showing how special all season, but it was accentuated last week in the Division III New England Regionals in Harwich, Mass. Dexter powered the Huskies to the title and trip to the Division III World Series in Appleton, Wis., with home runs in consecutive wins over Western New England and Endicott on Saturday in must win situations. His second homer broke a 2-2 tie with Endicott in the ninth en route to a 5-2 win to force a deciding game for the championship with the Majors, which USM won 9-0 the next day.
USM will play the opening game at 10 a.m (CST) on Friday in the eight-team national tournament. The Huskies (42-8) meet Millsaps College of Jackson, Miss.
A year ago when Messalonskee won the Class A state title, Dexter remarked that it was the first championship team he had played on. Less than a year later, he's played on his second.
"It's been a lot of fun," said Dexter. "Obviously when you've won 42 games, it's going to be fun. With the kind of guys we have on this team, I've been very fortunate to have this opportunity. We've been battled tested all year. We're excited about playing in the nationals. I'm going to play my game and the team will play our game and we'll do fine."
Having won over 800 games and two national titles as USM coach, Flaherty is not easily impressed. That changes watching Dexter.
"I'm amazed by the things he does as a freshman," said the coach. "He's as good as there is at this level and he's getting better and better. Sam is uncanny to watch."
Flaherty talked about a relay throw Dexter made in the 5-2 win over Endicott.
"The Endicott batter hit the ball over the center fielder's head. It was in the bottom of the eighth inning with the score tied. When he hit it, I was thinking triple. Sam took the cutoff throw in the outfield and threw the runner out at third. It was like a major league throw. If the runner gets to third, he likely would have scored which would have put a lot of pressure on us in the ninth," he said.
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