AUGUSTA — Dennis Meehan was a star athlete for four years at Gardiner Area High School. But on Monday afternoon, Meehan was pitching for a team from Windham in one of the biggest games of his career.

After moving south before the summer, Meehan joined the Windham American Legion Baseball team. Windham played in the state final Monday and Meehan threw the first three innings of a 9-1 victory over Westbrook as the Merchants won the state championship.

“My grandmother passed away, so we moved down there during the summer,” Meehan said. “I stayed out in Gardiner. I finished out school there, and graduated from Gardiner, then moved down with my family for the summer before I go off to college.”

Meehan said he came close to transferring to Windham High School. While the decision was ultimately his, he said his family and friends were clear they would support him either way.

“We had transfer papers already signed,” Meehan said. “But everyone in Gardiner really wanted me to stay, so I ended up staying.”

Windham Legion coach Brody Artes heard something this spring about Meehan possibly moving into the area, so he kept it in the back of his mind. Artes watched Meehan in a tryout for the Legion team, and quickly realized he could use someone with Meehan’s skill set.

“He has provided us with a lot of versatility, a lot of depth,” Artes said. “Someone that has as good a bat he does, he can really hit anywhere in the order for us, someone that plays a solid shortstop for us, and someone who can pitch.

“It just added to the overall depth of a team that already had that. It just really put us over the top. We were so close during the high school season, and we had Dennis, and Cody Dube coming back from college, and it really showed.”

“They took me in like a brother,” Meehan said. “They’re all great kids.”

A couple weeks ago, Meehan was involved in one of the biggest local sports controversies in recent memory. Windham and Pastime Club of Lewiston were playing for the Zone 3 championship. Due to rainouts, the game stretched out over a few days.

Windham ended up forfeiting the game for using a pitcher more than his allowable number of innings in three days. Only Windham hadn’t done that, and Zone 3 commissioner Todd Cifelli admitted the next day that the ruling was a mistake. It was too late to change things, and while Pastime went directly to the state tournament, Windham had to beat Madison in a play-in game.

“Basically, we got robbed of what we could have been doing,” Meehan said. “We were playing great ball. We were staying in there. Ultimately, if we had a shot to finish it, we had a shot to win it.”

The Merchants beat Madison, but lost to Westbrook on the first day of the state tournament. Needing to win five in a row for the state title, Windham did just that, including a 7-6 victory over Pastime and two wins over Westbrook.

“We wanted to meet Pastime again, and beat them — the right way,” Meehan said, “and we wanted to keep on going and win, and do what we did.”

Shawn Francoeur was going to start the championship game against Westbrook on Sunday, but that game was delayed by rain. Meehan, who had pitched five innings Thursday and a few batters Saturday, got the call.

“We were hoping that he could give us at least three innings, if not four,” Artes said. “We knew he wasn’t going to go out there and throw seven or eight. We knew going into today, we were going to piece together our pitching staff.”

“I was pretty sore today,” Meehan said. “The Lobster Bowl put a toll on me, and the last couple days, we had a lot of games. I just went as long as I could.”

Windham went on to use five pitchers, and Meehan had the longest stint of the quintet. He went the first three innings, leaving with a 1-0 lead. In the third inning, he gave up his only hit and walked back-to-back batters with two out. On his 46th and final pitch, Meehan retired tournament Most Valuable Player Robbie Hamilton on a flyout to right field. Meehan went to shortstop for the rest of the day, and drove in Windham’s final run with an RBI single in the seventh inning.

“We started Dennis because he was the freshest,” Artes said. “He was the one who had the most rest prior to today. We thought that he could give us our best start, and he did a great job. Phenomenal job.”

Meehan’s athletic career isn’t over. He’ll attend Husson University beginning this fall, and plans to play football and baseball.

“I couldn’t decide, really,” he said. “I was going to see if I could go down south, but I couldn’t give up football. It was just too much a part of me.”

Meehan’s Gardiner past is a big part of him, too. But he’s already shown this summer that he can do pretty well when he’s out of his comfort zone.

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

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