AUGUSTA — Messalonskee continued its playoff mastery Thursday night and is headed back to the Class A state championship.
The Eagles took the lead in the second inning and never trailed, upsetting No. 1 Oxford Hills to win the Eastern Maine Class A title with a 3-2 win Thursday evening at Morton Field in Augusta.
“They did a great job to get this far with it,” Messalonskee coach Ray Bernier said. “I was worried about what was going to happen when we put (our pitchers) in that situation three games in a row. That’s a lot of mental stress.”
No. 6 Messalonskee will get a chance to defend the Class A title it won last season when it plays Western Maine champ Westbrook at 2 p.m. Saturday at Morton Field.
Messalonskee utilized its unique pitcher rotation system again, which helped keep Oxford Hills guessing. Nick Mayo started for the Eagles and pitched two innings, Jake Dexter pitched three and Devin Warren pitched the final two.
“We didn’t really sting the ball,” said Oxford Hills head coach Shane Slicer. “We never got a leadoff guy on until the sixth inning. We left a lot of guys on base.”
Messalonskee took the lead in the top of the second inning when Warren led off with a double and scored on a fielder’s choice by Trevor Gettig. The Vikings threatened in the second with a double by Ty Martin and a walk to Ben Bowie, but Mayo worked out of the jam by striking out Nick Bowie to end the inning.
Mayo pitched two innings and didn’t allow a run for Messalonskee. He gave up one hit and struck out four.
The Eagles immediately responded, putting two runs on the board to take a 3-0 lead. Zachary Mathieu started things off with a double. A hit batter and a fielder’s choice later and the Eagles had runners on second and third before Dexter was intentionally walked. Jared Cunningham followed with a base hit that found a small gap in the infield to score a pair of runs.
“I think they were just getting in a better position to get out of the inning,” Cunningham said of the intentional walk. “I thought I had to come in and do my job. I just wanted to put the ball in play.”
Oxford Hills got on the board in the fourth inning when Dexter hit Jordan Croteau to lead off the inning. Pinch runner Brady LaFrance moved to second on a fielder’s choice and scored on a single by Matt Beauchesne, who moved to second on a walk and the Vikings loaded the bases on an error.
Nick Attaliades-Ryan got the Vikings within a run when he was hit by a pitch, which the Messalonskee bench disputed, saying it hit the bottom of the bat. Attaliades-Ryan was awarded first base and the Vikings were within a run.
Dexter got into another jam in the fifth inning, allowing runners to reach second and third with two outs. However, third baseman Ben Frazee saved at least two runs with a diving grab to end the inning.
“We weren’t going to keep Dexter out (for the fifth inning),” Bernier said. “He talked us into it. He said ‘No coach, I want this next one.’”
“It just wasn’t my inning,” Dexter said of the fourth. “I had a little trouble with location and they got a little rally. I really wanted to come out there in the fifth and make up for what I did. I think I did that.”
Dexter went three innings, allowing four hits and two runs.
The Vikings threatened again in the sixth inning, putting a runner on second but the Eagles were able to run a successful pickoff play to nail the runner at second. Attaliades-Ryan followed with a single but Dalton Rice struck out to end the inning.
Warren shut the Vikings down in order in the seventh to secure the win and put the Eagles in their second straight Class A state title game.
“Last year’s team is completely gone,” Dexter said. “We have a different team. All these young guys, we have big game experience. We know what it takes to win in the playoffs.”
Jesse Scardina — 861-9239