The team meeting held by the Messalonskee High School baseball squad will go down in Eagles lore as one of the most important team meetings in school history.

Messalonskee fell to 5-5 with a loss to Brewer on May 12. For a team with expectations of a playoff run, 5-5 was worrisome. In the ensuing team meeting, nothing was off limits.

“We were trying to understand on both ends if we’ve got that full commitment to winning, because we have the talent. We as the coaches asked the players, is it something that we’re doing wrong?”

Messalonskee coach Ray Bernier said. “I even made the comment that I felt that maybe it was time for me to step away if I couldn’t get a team this talented to do better than 5-5.”

Added junior pitcher/outfielder Reid Nutter: “What definitely helped, things got personal, for sure. Guys got singled out for a lot of stuff. They definitely took it to heart to step up their game.”

Whatever was said, it worked. The Eagles closed the season with a 10-game win streak, ending with a 6-3 win over Scarborough in the Class A state championship game, the first Class A baseball title in school history.

For his work in leading Messalonskee to its first baseball state championship in 39 year, Bernier is the Morning Sentinel Baseball Coach of the Year. Paul Belanger, who led Valley to the Western D final a year after the Cavaliers won just one game in 2011, and Nokomis coach Jared Foster, who coached the Warriors to their first winning season in more than a decade, were also considered.

“I would describe him as a player’s coach,” Messalonskee shortstop Sam Dexter said. “He lets us play. He doesn’t complicate the game for us. Him allowing us to play, and not putting so much pressure on us, makes it easier to play.”

After going 5-11 in 2011, expectations for improvement at Messalonskee were high entering 2012.

“That’s what made it so frustrating for us when we were 5-5,” Bernier said. “At that time, I was wondering if it was me. I felt that we were a better team than 5-5, so I was putting a lot on me, thinking we should be better than that.”

Even though he was frustrated, Bernier stayed calm, and that rubbed off on his team.

“He keeps us relaxed and keeps us calm,” Nutter said.

One of the goals that came out of the meeting was to stay upbeat, even if the face of adversity. Players began to accept their roles, no matter how big or small.

“Patrick Breton, he knew his role was just to come in and pitch. He never got to see an at bat,” Bernier said. “As hard as it was, he accepted it and understood it.”

Bernier and his coaching staff, Dale Breton, Andrew Breton, Shawn Wilkie, and Ray Bernier (Bernier’s son) were able to mix a group of veterans with a handful of talented young players to build a winning team.

“Especially with Little Ray, there’s a good chemistry between the coaches and the players,” Zach Mathieu, one of four freshmen who contributed to Messalonskee’s success, said.

“What helped was, the freshmen we had this year were a group that’s used to winning,” Bernier said. “They understood what it took to win, and it was nice to see they were frustrated when we were 5-5. That helped them to gel together.”

The Eagles lose three players — shortstop Sam Dexter, third baseman Travis St. Pierre, and centerfielder Gage Landry — to graduation, but Bernier is excited about the talent that will return to try to defend the state crown.

“We’ve got the whole pitching staff returning. We’re losing key players, but we have a good nucleus to work around and continue with,” Bernier said. “As a coach, I’m not complaining.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242
tlazarczy[email protected]

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