Before the baseball season started, Trevor Gettig asked new Messalonskee High School baseball coach Peter McLaughlin for a favor. Gettig was entering his fourth year as the Eagles starting catcher. Please, he asked, may I call the pitches this season?

McLaughlin, himself a former catcher at the University of Maine at Farmington, mulled Gettig’s request.

“I thought a lot about it, and every game I ever played in I called every single pitch. Even in college, I called every single pitch. Going into coaching, I was like, ‘I’m going to call every pitch,” McLaughlin said. “Then I started thinking about it. (Gettig) knows the game. He’s a three-year, going on four-year, starter at the beginning of the year. Going into preseason, I said ‘Let’s kind of see where you are.'”

Now that the regular season is complete, the answer to that question is obvious. Gettig’s experience and baseball knowledge have made a good pitching staff better. The Eagles finished the regular season with a 1.17 team earned run average.

“The first time through (the order), you want to hide your stuff as much as you can. As the game goes, you just want to keep the hitters off balance, mix them inside, outside, up, down, everywhere,” Gettig said.

“A lot of high school catchers will focus on a ton of curveballs. He’s got the philosophy of, work off the fastball and he’s wiser beyond his years,” McLaughlin said. “Once he proved himself, I said keep going, and when we started out as hot as we did I didn’t want to rock the boat. He’s been on point the entire year, and I’m a superstitous kind of guy.”

Messalonskee enters the Eastern Class A baseball tournament with a 13-3 record and as the No. 4 seed. The Eagles host No. 5 Oxford Hills (9-7) in a quarterfinal game at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. If Messalonskee, which won the Class A state title in 2012 and finished runner-up in 2013, reaches the regional final for the fourth straight season (the Eagles lost to eventual state champion Bangor last season), Gettig will play an important role.

“His biggest characteristic is his mind for the game. He understands the game very well, and how to manipulate a batter, how to mix speeds very well. He’s thinking three, four, five pitches ahead, and for a catcher it’s one of those things you can’t really teach,” McLaughlin said.

This has been an all-around breakout season for Gettig. Along with his duties behind the plate, Gettig became Messalonksee’s leadoff hitter. His on base percentage is close to .500, which ranks him amongst the best on the team. It also makes him an offensive catalyst at the top of the Eagles’ order.

“I wanted to do it. I draw a lot of walks and work a lot of pitches. I like it up there. It’s fun to lead off and hope to energize and start the game strong for us,” Gettig said.

“He’s been doing a good job getting on base. That’s all we want,” said third baseman/pitcher Jake Dexter, who, like Gettig and left fielder Zach Mathieu, is a four-year starter.

McLauglin guessed he’s called about three pitches all season. In those situations, he didn’t override a Gettig decision, rather, McLaughlin made sure he and Gettig were on the same page.

“I had a feeling he was there,” McLaughlin said.

Gettig began catching almost as soon as he began playing baseball. He first put on the catching gear when he was six or seven.

“I found a love for it. It’s an action place. It keeps you focused on the game the whole time. It’s fun back there,” Gettig said.

A thin 5-foot-9, Gettig doesn’t look like a catcher from central casting, but his size camouflages Gettig’s skills. He’s adept at moving behind the plate, so pitchers can throw the occasional breaking ball in the dirt without fear. While Messalonskee hasn’t allowed many baserunners, those who get on haven’t run much, either.

“A lot of people are surprised. They don’t expect the speed. I’m kind of a small kid, but I tend to hold my own back there,” Gettig said.

“He’s got a great, quick release on guys that are trying to steal on him. He’s a leader on this team, and guys respect him a lot,” McLaughlin said.

It helps that Gettig’s baseball relationship with Dexter and Nick Mayo, two of Messalonskee’s top pitchers, goes back years.

“I don’t even know how young we were, that’s how long ago it was. Ever since I’ve played, he’s always been my catcher,” Mayo said. “He knows exactly what I want to throw, and I know exactly what he’s going to call. Being in sync all the time is nice.”

Gettig said calling the game begins in pregame warmups, when he sees which pitches look the sharpest, and can get a handle on how the pitcher feels.

“That’s when I can pick and say, let’s shy away from this, work with other stuff. I’ve been working with (Mayo and Dexter) for 10-plus years now. I’ve learned when they’re on and when they’re not. They do a pretty good job of keeping on,” Gettig said. “I kind of give them their space during the game, if they’re in a rhythm. If they’re struggling, I’ll say, ‘hey this is what I’ve noticed.’ They don’t don’t really argue with my calls much. They know if they don’t like it, they can just shake it off and throw whatever they want.”

Midway through his freshman season, Gettig found a spot in Messalonskee’s lineup as the No. 2 hitter. The last two seasons, Gettig spent much of his time in the nine hole. McLaughlin didn’t hesitate to install Gettig as the Eagles leadoff hitter.

“The big adjustment for him was patience. Coming into this year, we talked about what I wanted from the leadoff position. Most catchers aren’t leadoff hitters, either,” McLaughlin said. “He’s arguably the most athletic guy we’ve got here. He’s a got a great eye, and we talk about really working pitchers and working counts.”

In his first game in the leadoff spot, Gettig walked four times, McLaughlin said.

“He said ‘Coach, I think that’s more than I walked all last year.’ He’s taken that, and he’s kept it going,” McLaughlin said. “He’s allowed our second, third, fourth hitters to see a lot of pitches before they start.”

Next year, Gettig will attend the University of Maine, where any baseball he plays will be intramural or club. Now, he hopes to help the Eagles make anouther run deep in the tournament.

“It’s a new level come playoff time. We’re getting turned up,” Gettig said. “It’s time to come out and stay strong and hopefully we can walk away with what everybody wants, and end my high school career with a W.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM