Devin Warren had his game day routine, or maybe you’d call it superstition. Before each game, Warren ate chips and salsa with teammate Jake Dexter, then took a nap. For home games at Messalonskee High School, Warren left at the same time each game, and he backed his truck into the same parking space, every time.

On the bus rides to road games, Warren listened to the same Pandora station — Juicy J radio — every time. After games, he’d leave his stirrups and socks on until he got home, and Warren and Dexter would go fishing on Great Pond in Belgrade.

“I’ve got this little boat, and even if we weren’t catching anything, we’d go to the same spot. That’s just how it went, for the past three years,” Warren said. “It’s kind of weird, but little stuff like that keeps you going.”

Whatever Warren did, it worked. The center fielder/pitcher helped lead Messalonskee to the Eastern Class A championship game for the third straight season, and in the process was named Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A Player of the Year. Warren also was a finalist for the Dr. John Winkin Award, presented to the top senior baseball player in the state each year.

For his efforts on the field, Warren is the Morning Sentinel Baseball Player of the Year.

A four-year starter for the Eagles, Warren and coach Ray Bernier talked after his junior season about having a big senior year.

“At the end of the year, I challenged him. I said, hey, let’s see if we can get some of those accolades. He definitely took on that challenge, and well exceeded it,” Bernier said.

Warren was always a good hitter, with a batting average in the .300s, but this season, his offense exploded. In the regular season, Warren hit .574, with 20 runs and 24 RBIs. His 35 hits in the regular season is a Messalonskee record. In a 16-game regular season, Warren averaged more than two hits per game.

Taking batting practice with Dexter, taking hundreds of swings, was the difference, Warren said.

“We hit balls in the cage at Colby. It’s all we do. Weekends, after practice, before practice,” Warren said. “For the past three years, I was a .300 hitter. I was trying to do too much. This year, I just let it go and put a free cut on the ball. It seemed to work out pretty good.”

Warren could see a difference in his swing early in the season.

“It hit me in preseason, actually. I had a couple games where I got three hits and I was feeling pretty good. I was like, this might work. Midway through the season, I was still hitting the ball,” Warren said. “I’ve never felt that way before at the plate.”

“It was almost like, when’s he going to stop? Because you know the percentage have to catch up,” Bernier said. “Devin liked to jump on that very first pitch, and when he was able to, that’s when he did some damage.”

When not on the mound, Warren played centerfield for the Eagles. Warren never played outfield until his freshman year at Messalonskee, when Bernier put him in right field.

“I saw speed in him, which I thought would be a benefit, and it showed as he matured,” Bernier said.

Learning to judge fly balls was a process.

“I was God awful. I was terrible. I lost a game at Mt. Blue just missing a pop fly,” Warren said. “It’s all about confidence, anyway, catching the ball. Once I got my confidence, it was luxury out there. I loved the outfield, chasing down fly balls.”

Warren was one of Messalonskee’s most reliable pitchers over the last four years. He leaves with a career record of 13-3 (3-0 this season with one save). While Warren doesn’t feel his senior season was his best on the mound, he thinks his best pitch was his curveball.

“The curveball was the one this year. I have to give it to the curveball,” Warren said. “It was the most effective with two strikes. Early or late in the count. Sometimes I’d be 3-0, and I’d throw a curveball because it was the only thing I could get across the plate. I feel like my curveball is easy to locate, for some reason.”

Bernier said Warren became a strong leader for the Eagles, and that helped build the team’s culture of winning. Messalonskee played in the last three regional championship gameS, and won the Class A state title in 2012. Warren was the winning pitcher in that game as a sophomore.

“He had a good (leader) in front of him, with Sammy (Dexter) showing the way. I think he really excelled at it this year,” Bernier said.

“I’ll tell ya, when we started my freshman year, we were 5-11, and I had a great time. I was playing varsity as a freshman, I thought ‘This is awesome.’ The next year, we were winning games, and we were winning more games, and when we got beat, it was ‘I don’t know how I had 11 losses last year,'” Warren said. “It’s cool to get to those (championship games). The problem was, most of the guys on our team had won one in 2012. And we all want that feeling again. The whole year was focusing on getting to that. That’s all we wanted.”

When the season was over, Warren played in the Maine-New Hampshire Senior All-Star Game, and in the East/West Senior All-Star Game. Against New Hampshire’s hard-throwing pitchers, Warren went 1 for 3.

“You kind of get to meet these guys you’ve been playing against. You find out they’re actually cool guys like we are. That was a great experience for me. It kind of gave me a taste of what college may be like,” Warren said. “I guess everybody has a little doubt, am I going to be able to hit college pitching? They’re throwing harder, and (NH) had those kids throwing in the low 90s. It gives you confidence. That was good for me.”

Warren will play in the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl football game next week, then his focus will shift back to baseball. He’ll continue his baseball career at the University of Southern Maine, where he’ll join former high school teammate Sam Dexter.

“It’s what everybody wants to do, play at the next level,” Warren said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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