Sam Dexter is in a groove. On Monday, the University of Southern Maine shortstop was named the Little East Conference Player of the Week after hitting .375 in the Huskies’ four games last week, with three doubles and two runs batted in. It was an impressive week for Dexter in what has been an impressive start to his season. Keep in mind, that in going 6 for 16 at the plate last week, Dexter’s batting average actually went down.

In 14 games, Dexter, a Messalonskee High School graduate, is hitting .500, and with 20 games scheduled for the next 26 days he hopes to lead the Huskies to the Division III College World Series for the third consecutive season.

“I’m just trying to hit the ball hard, really, and that’s what it comes down to,” Dexter said. “You know how baseball goes. There’s a lot of highs and lows in a season. I’m at one of those high points right now.”

The 9-5 Huskies are ranked 15th in the nation in the latest d3baseball.com poll. USM is scheduled to play at Salem State on Thursday.

“Sam’s maybe the best (player) I’ve ever had,” USM coach Ed Flaherty said. “His work ethic is great. He’s always looking to get better. He’s a once-in-30-years player.”

A junior, Dexter has hit safely in each of USM’s 14 games. He already has nine multiple hit games, and his .569 on base percentage and .759 slugging percentage lead the team. Dexter’s early season success is just a continuation of steady improvement he’s shown since joining the Huskies for the 2013 season. As a freshman, Dexter hit .335 and was a key member of the USM team that finished as national runner-up at the World Series. Last season, Dexter earned all-Little East Conference honors after hitting .382 and scoring 49 runs.

Dexter’s early season success began with USM’s first game, a 10-6 win over Suffolk in which he went 2 for 4 and scored three runs. A 7 for 11 stretch over three games on March 12 and 13 raised Dexter’s batting average to .556. A 4 for 4 effort with two runs batted in and two more scored in a 16-1 win over Worcester State on March 17 had Dexter hitting .553.

If Dexter mirrors last season at the plate, he can crack USM’s top 10 in career hits with one season yet to play. To get that many games, the Huskies will have to make another deep postseason run. USM lost seven players to graduation, and 12 of the 29 players on the roster are freshmen. Now one of the team’s veteran leaders, Dexter sees talent in the newcomers.

“A lot of the same faces here the last few years aren’t here anymore,” Dexter said. “We still have a lot of competitive guys on this team.”

If the young players in the Huskies lineup can provide Dexter with some protection so opponents cannot pitch around him, Flaherty thinks Dexter could make his hot start a season-long trend.

“Eventually (opponents) are going to get wise to him. They haven’t started really pitching around him yet. If he gets proper protection, I don’t know what he’ll hit. He could hit .500,” Flaherty said.

This summer, Dexter may have a chance to test his talent against some of the top college baseball players in the country. He’s signed a temporary contract with the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod League. The temporary contract means Dexter will have to try out for a spot on the team. He also has an invitation to rejoin the Sanford Mainers of the New England Collegiate Baseball League.

“I try not to think about it now. I think it’s something every college baseball player strives for, is to get a chance to play on the Cape,” Dexter said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.