Maine Central Institute senior Pedro Matos was a good baseball player. When the Huskies needed him to carry them to the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, Matos was great.

“As a senior, I felt like I had to step up a little more and show these kids that we can have a winning program and have a good team,” Matos said.

After MCI started the season with seven consecutive losses, coach Eric Day had a meeting with Matos. Day laid everything out plainly.

“I told him, if we were going to turn this around, it started with him,” Day said.

Over the final 10 games of the season, including a Class B North preliminary round game, Matos hit .615. The Huskies went 7-3 in those games to earn a playoff spot.

“It was huge. It was a really big deal for me,” Matos said of making the playoffs.

A center fielder/pitcher, Matos earned Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B Player of the Year honors, and was a finalist for the Dr. John Winkin Award, presented annually to the state’s Mr. Baseball. For his accomplishment in leading MCI to the postseason, Pedro Matos is the Morning Sentinel Baseball Player of the Year. Also considered were Bridgeway’s Evan Bess and Zach Hartsgrove of Nokomis.

On the season, Matos had a .473 batting average and .542 on base percentage. Matos hit three home runs, six triples and five doubles, giving him a .914 slugging percentage. He drove in 17 runs, scored 15, and swiped 10 bases. As a pitcher, Matos earned the win in four of MCI’s seven victories. While accumulating strong stats was nice, to Matos, it didn’t matter if the Huskies continued losing. MCI was coming off a two-win season, but Matos felt like the team had the talent to turn things around. Many players had been members of MCI’s back-to-back state champions in football, or had been to the playoffs with the soccer and basketball teams. Why not baseball? But when they were 0-7 to start the season, the Huskies knew they had to simply play better.

“I’ve been on this team for four years, and I’ve been a four-year starter. I feel like Coach (Day) talked about it a lot. Since we’d lost so much, we’d go into games and we weren’t expecting to win,” Matos said. “We all sat together and before practice we all talked. We decided we can win. We’re a bunch of good athletes. This season is what we make it… Once we got that spark back in baseball, it kept rolling.”

To Day, winning a few ballgames sparked newfound confidence in Matos, and that quickly spread through the entire team.

“He’s always been a major contributor. I don’t know if he even knew what he was capable of,” Day said. “The whole team started hitting when he started hitting.”

Day had Matos second in the batting order for most of the season. It was a spot that maximized Matos’ plate appearances and utilized his ability to make contact and get on base. Already known as the Huskies’ top player, opposing pitchers often worked around Matos. As the team improved, all that did was put a speedster on base.

“I would get walked a lot and Owen (Williams) would be able to bring me in. I just started hitting. Owen started hitting. Our fourth batter, Norman Duncombe, started hitting. It was a good spot to be in. If I was able to get a hit, it started a whole thing,” Matos said. “I like being able to get on the bags and steal bases and get myself in scoring position so I can get my teammates RBIs. If you don’t score, you can’t win.”

Home in Lawrence, Massachusetts last summer, Matos worked with a trainer to improve his power.

“Back home, we’re all about baseball, so I went to my trainer. I told him, I have speed but I would like to be able to hit the ball harder. We just worked on mechanics,” Matos said. “The better mechanics you have, the further the ball will travel. Getting stronger forearms, stronger shoulders, stronger back, getting everything together.”

Matos’ power numbers were up this year, but his game was still built around his speed, his greatest asset. Defensively, Matos’ ability to cover ground in center field was a key for the Huskies. There was a catch in the gap when MCI beat rival Nokomis late in the season, Day said, but he didn’t like singling a Matos defensive play out.

“It’s hard to pick one. It got to the point where it was routine,” Day said. “He gets a good read off the bat. His speed, in my opinion, was the best in the KVAC. There were a few balls you say, that’s a double, that’s a triple, and he chases it down.”

Matos will attend the University of Maine, where he plans to continue his baseball career.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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