The University of Southern Maine’s run at the NCAA Division III World Series, which ended with a championship game loss to Linfield on Tuesday, was the culmination of a few years of hard work, said relief pitcher Nate Veilleux, a Messalonskee High School graduate.

“I was talking to a couple guys, and over the last two years, we’ve been saying ‘Let’s get to the World Series.’ And here we are,” Veilleux, a junior, said.

Veilleux pitched one scoreless inning in the tournament, held in Appleton, Wis., giving up one hit while striking out one.

“I hadn’t thrown in a couple weeks. I was a little nervous at the start,” Veilleux said. “But once I started pitching, I was fine. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

Eventual champion Linfield was the only team to beat the Huskies in the tournament. The first loss, a 10-1 drubbing on the tournament’s second day, sparked USM, Veilleux said.

“After that Linfield game, we started swinging the bats,” Veilleux said. “Coach (Ed Flaherty) never lost doubt.”

As a pitcher Veilleux was amazed by the performance turned in by his teammate, Andrew Richards, who threw 24 2/3 innings in the tournament, a record. On Tuesday, Richards threw 12 innings of relief in USM’s 5-4 win over Ithaca, then started the championship game against Linfield and tossed 3 1/3 more.

Veilleux said Richards predicted his iron man outing while lounging in the hot tub Monday night.

“He said ‘I’m going to win two games tomorrow. I’m telling you, I have 18 (innings) in me,’ ” Veilleux said. “It was pretty incredible, but that’s just the type of kid he is.”

With a number of players returning, including fellow Messalonskee graduate Sam Dexter, Gardiner’s Forrest Chadwick and Erskine’s Shyler Scares, Veilleux said he expects the Huskies to contend again next season.

“I think we’ll be one of the top teams in New England, for sure,” he said.

* * *

On Tuesday, it looked like the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championship game Friday at Winslow’s Nivison Field would be round three between rivals Winslow and Waterville, both 13-3. But on Wednesday, Waterville coach Don Sawyer was told to hold on a second.

It turns out, if Morse beats Camden Hills in its season finale, the Shipbuilders could jump over the Purple Panthers in the Heal point standings. If that happens, Waterville’s run of conference championships ends at three.

If Waterville does hold on to its spot in the game, it faces not only a Black Raider team that beat it twice in the regular season, but a possible opponent in the Eastern Class B tournament.

“I think we’ve always played the game to win it, but strategy may have to be changed a little,” Sawyer said. “Maybe we’d throw seven guys for one inning each. Our defense will keep us in it no matter who’s pitching.”

Winslow coach Jesse LaCasse said his team is looking forward to a possible third matchup with the Panthers.

“It’s two good teams. It’s a prep game for the playoffs,” LaCasse said. “That it’s against Waterville would make it big for Winslow.”

The game is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday at Winslow’s Nivision Field.

* * *

With Brunswick’s 9-7 win over Mt. Ararat on Wednesday, the field for the Eastern Class A playoffs is set.

No. 9 Brunswick (5-11) will play No. 8 Brewer (6-10) in the preliminary round, with the winner facing No. 1 Oxford Hills (14-2).

Other quarterfinal games are No. 7 Lewiston (10-6) at No. 2 Hampden Academy (14-2), No. 6 Messalonskee (10-6) at No. 3 Bangor (12-4), and No. 5 Skowhegan (8-8) at No. 4 Cony (11-5).

Brunswick’s win over Mt. Ararat on Friday knocked Lawrence out of the playoffs, despite a great second half of the season for the Bulldogs. Lawrence started the season 0-7, including a stretch of four consecutive one-run losses, but the Bulldogs improved. Lawrence won four games down the stretch, including victories over playoff-bound Lewiston and Skowhegan. The Bulldogs finished three points behind Brunswick for the final playoff spot.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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