Midway through the season and his team struggling to find some consistency, Messalonskee baseball coach Ray Bernier had a chat with his players.
“I gave them a lecture and told them that you can’t just turn it on when you want to,” he said. “You can’t just flip the switch. It doesn’t work that way.”
The Eagles proved otherwise.
After going 10-6 in the regular season, the defending Class A state champ Eagles entered the playoffs as the No. 6 seed.
And then a funny thing happened …
“When we got into the playoffs it just became a different feel,” pitcher Devin Warren said. “I don’t know what it is. The whole mood changed and we just turned it on.”
Messalonskee (13-6) upended the top three seeds — Bangor, Hampden and Oxford Hills — by a combined 13-6 score to reach the Class A state title game for a second straight year. The Eagles will play Westbrook (16-3) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Morton Field.
“I guess they went out and proved me wrong,” Bernier said with a laugh. “Everything just came together. We were a little surprised. We know how hard it is to get to the state game. We know it’s hard to get there but to do it two years in a row, that’s pretty good. They knew how to turn it on and here we are.”
The Blue Blazes and Eagles admittedly know little about each other.
Westbrook, which came out of the West as the fourth seed, watched Messalonskee edge Oxford Hills 3-2 in the Eastern A final.
“I really don’t know what to expect,” Westbrook coach Greg Souza said. “They look like they do all the fundamental stuff. I’m just telling my guys to just do what they’ve been doing.”
Junior shortstop Collin Joyce bats leadoff for Westbrook and led the team with 10 RBIs. Westbrook, which is back in a state final for the first time since 2005, hit just one home run this year.
Ace Zack Bean will start for Westbrook. He is 6-0 with an ERA around 1.00, Souza said.
“We just have a solid team,” Souza said. “We’re a team that runs the bases well and can hit one through nine. We like to put the ball in play and use our legs.”
Messalonskee, meanwhile, will counter with an array of pitchers, something Bernier has favored throughout the playoffs.
Nick Mayo started the regional final against Oxford Hills and went two innings before Jake Dexter came on in relief. He went three innings before closer Devin Warren finished off the Vikings.
Bernier said he’d like to stay away from Dexter, who’s won all three games in playoffs.
“We don’t want to overuse Jake,” he said.
Senior captain Patrick Breton will start for Messalonskee. He’ll be relieved by sophomore Ben Frazee and possibly Mayo again. Warren will close it out should the Eagles be up late.
“We have confidence in all these guys,” Bernier said.
Added Warren: “We’ve all just been going out and trying to do our jobs. This has been our goal ever since the day after states last season. We have one big step to go and we want to get there to finish this off.”
Bill Stewart — 621-5640