GORHAM — Sam Dexter, the University of Southern Maine shortstop, thought about the effort turned in by teammate Forrest Chadwick at the New England regional last week, and shook his head. Unable to pay the field because of a quadriceps injury, Chadwick still went 6 for 9 at the plate for the Huskies, driving in six runs. Chadwick’s three-run homer in the eighth inning of the championship game all but clinched the victory over Endicott.
“It was remarkable what (Chadwick) did. We certainly needed him at some points in that tournament, and he delivered. He was extremely clutch for us,” Dexter said.
Dexter, a Messalonskee High School graduate, knows a little something about clutch himself. All Dexter did in the New England tournament was hit .522 (12 for 23), with six runs and four runs batted in.
Chadwick, a Gardiner native, and Dexter will again be key members of the USM baseball team when the Huskies travel to Appleton, Wisc., for the Division III World Series. Pitchers Shyler Scates, an Erskine Academy grad, and Nathan Veilleux, of Messalonskee, are also key players for USM.
The Huskies (35-13), who finished runner-up to national champion Linfield last season, will open the double elimination tournament Friday at 8:45 p.m. against Wisconsin-Whitewater.
“We have Whitewater the first game, so they’re going to have a bunch of fans. A little hostile. We know what the atmosphere is like,” Chadwick said.
Chadwick injured his quad running out a hit in the Little East Conference tournament against Eastern Connecticut.
“I tried to grab that extra gear going down the baseline and kind of overdid it. I felt something snap in my leg,” Chadwick said.
Chadwick, the Huskies’ center fielder, sat out the opening game of the New England regional against Worcester State, and walked in a plate appearance against Tufts. By the end of the tournament, he was able to be the designated hitter, and his three-run blast in the eighth inning of the final helped USM to a nine-run inning to blow the game open.
“He started me out with two curveballs and I swung and missed. He came inside with a fastball on 0-2, and I had it timed up,” Chadwick said.
“He’s one of the most talented kids I’ve ever coached. He’s got the rare ability at this level to do all five facets of the game at an All-Ameican level,” USM head coach Ed Flaherty said. “He’s a guy, when he’s in the middle of the lineup, it changes our lineup totally.”
Chadwick leads the Huskies with 53 runs scored and 50 RBIs. He’s getting treatment for his quad and hopes to be back in the outfield Friday night, although if that happens he’ll likely play one of the corner positions.
“We have four days to make it that much better, and hopefully I’m 90, 95 percent by then and back in the outfield,” Chadwick said.
Added Flaherty: “It was improving all through the regional tournament. We’re going to play on the side of caution, because he’s more apt to get hurt in the field.”
Dexter had hip surgery last October to repair his labrum. Recovery time is normally six months but Dexter was back in five, although admittedly not at 100 percent. He played the first few games of the season at second base while he worked on getting up to speed.
“I felt stronger and got in at short and never looked back,” Dexter said.
Dexter carries a .393 batting average with 45 runs and 32 RBIs into the World Series.
“I think we’ve got the best shortstop in the nation playing for us, especially at crunch time,” Flaherty said. “You get playoffs on, Sam gets even better.”
Like Dexter, Scates is a sophomore. Scates made the jump from midweek starter to key member of the rotation late last season, winning a game in the World Series. This season, Scates is 6-3 with a 3.49 earned run average. In 59 1/3 innings, Scates had 33 strikeouts and just eight walks.
“I’ve started to locate my curveball down a little more, get it in the dirt, really try to strike out more batters in pitchers counts,” Scates said. “Last year, I just pitched to contact because the level of teams I was pitching against weren’t as great. I’ve really had to attack hitters and try and get outs myself… I’m just more comfortable being in big moments.”
Flaherty said either Scates or lefty Tyler Leavitt will start game two of the tournament on Saturday, depending on the matchup.
Flaherty called on Veilleux to get the final out of the New England tournament, a sign of respect for one of the Huskies’ senior leaders.
“He’s my favorite. He’s the father of the kids on the team. If something needs to get done, Nathan does it,” Flaherty said. “If practice needs to go on, he can run the pitchers by himself. I was so happy to get him in for the last out of the regionals.”
Veilleux’s baseball career will end when USM’s run in the World Series is over.
“There’s no better way I could have spent my college career, really. I was talking to Coach (Flaherty) about it the other day,” Veilleux said. “This is the best group of guys I’ve ever been with. Going to Wisconsin again this year, it’s incredible.”
There’s a chance Chadwick could hear his name in the later rounds of the MLB draft on June 5.
“I’ve been talking to a few teams, and hopefully I’ll get the call on June 5. I don’t know what team yet, or where, but I definitely want to keep playing,” Chadwick said.