On Friday morning in Appleton, Wis., Erskine Academy graduate Shyler Scates took the mound for the University of Southern Maine baseball team in the first game of the Division III College World Series.

Backing up Scates defensively at third base was fellow Erskine graduate Nick Grady. At shortstop, Messalonskee’s Sam Dexter. In center field was Forrest Chadwick of Gardiner.

In the bullpen, Messalonskee graduate Nate Veilleux and Rangeley native Luke Hammond were ready if called upon.

On Saturday afternoon in Cary, N.C., Hall-Dale graduate and Franklin Pierce University pitcher Ryan Leach watched his Ravens squeeze out a 1-0 win over Shippensburg on the first day of the Division II College World Series.

In Wisconsin and North Carolina this week, there are some big baseball games being played. Some guys you’ve watched grow up on the diamonds of central Maine will have big roles in the outcomes of those games.

You can make the argument that Leach deserved some MVP consideration for his effort on the mound in Franklin Pierce’s 5-1 win over Wilmington in the regional final. Leach started and threw six innings. He gave up three hits and one unearned run, and the Ravens, the No. 6 seed in the region, earned a trip to North Carolina.

Leach has been one of the Ravens’ go-to pitchers when it comes to strikeouts all season. He averages almost 11 Ks per nine innings. While Leach started just three games so far this season, he’ll be on the mound in some key situations for the Ravens this week.

In Friday’s 2-1 win over Millsaps College, Chadwick and Grady each drove in a run. Chadwick’s base hit in the top of the 10th inning plated the go ahead run for the Huskies.

All Grady’s done all season is exceed expectations, save maybe the ones he had for himself. Last week, Grady was named a first team all-American. With every hit he gets in Appleton, Grady increases his school record for hits in a season. Going into Saturday’s game against Linfield, Grady’s 2013 hit total was 91, in 51 games.

The World Series opener was the eighth start of the season for Scates, and the freshman did not disappoint anyone in the USM family. A little amped up, Scates plunked the first Millsaps hitter he faced, but he settled down. Scates went five innings, allowing one run on five hits with four strikeouts and no walks.

Last spring, Dexter was a finalist for the Dr. John Winkin Award, given annually to the top senior playing high school baseball in Maine. Last week, D3baseball.com named Dexter the Rookie of the Year for New England. Already the Huskies’ leadoff hitter and starting shortstop, Dexter entered Saturday’s game hitting .348 with four home runs and 33 runs batted in.

Chadwick’s won games with his bat and his arm. A .389 hitter with seven home runs and 40 RBIs, Chadwick also had closed games for the Huskies. In 7 2/3 innings spread over nine appearances, Chadwick has four saves and 10 strikeouts. He hasn’t allowed an earned run yet. This week, Chadwick was named all-New England second team by D3baseball.com.

Hammond has pitched in 20 games for the Huskies, Veilleux in 13. They’re the kind of guys every team needs in the bullpen. Grinders who can come in and get an out.

There are a lot of youth baseball coaches in central Maine who deserve a round of applause for the success of these players. Without quality instruction, without instilling a love of baseball into these guys when they were young, they never would have tapped their potential and reached the national stage.

Baseball is doing well in central Maine. There’s fewer players than in the past, but those playing exhibit a passion for the game.

The proof is on field in Appleton, Wisc., and Cary, N.C.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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