Monmouth Academy pitcher Sam Calder, second from right, Pitcher Sam Calder of Monmouth Academy, middle, is mobbed by teammates after pitching a complete-game shutout against Sacopee in the Class C South final on June 14 in Gorham. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

MONMOUTH — It was going to be a gauntlet no matter which Class C South baseball team emerged from the region to play for a state title. No team, though, had it rougher than Monmouth Academy.

Just to reach the Southern Maine title game, the Mustangs had to dethrone reigning regional champ Lisbon and topple an Oak Hill team that had already battled them to the wire twice. Then, Monmouth had to take down a Sacopee Valley squad loaded with the kinds of stud players that are hard to find in small-town Maine.

“Our side of the bracket was tough, there’s no question,” said Monmouth head coach Eric Palleschi. “To go through Lisbon, to go through Oak Hill just to get to Sacopee Valley, that’s a hard path. We knew we’d have to earn it if we wanted to make it through, and we did.”

Now, it’s a return trip to the state final for Monmouth after it fell short at the final hurdle two years ago. Now, the Mustangs are ready to get over the hump and claim the school’s first state title in boys athletics in 15 years when they face Bucksport at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the University of Southern Maine.

Making it to this year’s state title game has been in the making for Monmouth for some time now. As sophomores two years ago, Manny Calder, Hunter Frost, Isaac Oliveira, Matt Marquis and Kyle Palleschi all played key roles on the Mustangs’ regional title-winning team, and they’ve only gotten more experienced since.

There’s a feeling of oh-so-close, though, that goes beyond baseball. In 2021, Oliveira and Owen Harding nearly won a state title with the Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale football team but it fell to Foxcroft 19-16 in the Class D title game. In basketball, many of the aforementioned seniors lost to Dirigo in both the 2022 and 2023 C South finals.


“Thinking about all the other sports, we got to a state championship in football, and in basketball, we were almost there twice,” Oliveira said. “In baseball, we went through it two years ago, and to go through it again as a senior, it would feel good to come back with that Golden Glove.”

So, how did Monmouth get here? For one, the team’s pitching staff has allowed just two runs in three playoff games. Palleschi pitched a fantastic game in relief against Lisbon in a 6-1 Mustangs win. Sammy Calder then pitched gems in a 3-1 win over Oak Hill and the 1-0 regional final triumph over Sacopee Valley.

Defensively, the Mustangs were error-free against Lisbon before committing just one error against Oak Hill. Although the Mustangs made two errors against Sacopee Valley, they also turned an inning-ending double play in the second and got key play from Harding at third in the sixth with the bases loaded.

Monmouth Academy’s Isaac Oiliveira waits to tag out Sacopee Valley’s Carson Black at second base during the Class C South final on June 14 in Gorham. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“That double play was huge early, and later on, Owen makes that play at third where he stops the ball and tags the guy out,” Palleschi said. “We got some key strikeouts in key situations from Sammy, too. He wasn’t afraid to throw 3-2 changeups or 3-2 curveballs, and if guys got on base, it didn’t bother him.”

Perhaps not unexpectedly given the series of vaunted opponents, Monmouth was held well below its season average of 10.3 runs per game over its three-game tournament stretch. The hits and runs, though, came when needed as the fortitude of a senior-heavy team shone through.

“I think it was just the chemistry and the experience that did it for us,” Oliveira said. “Us seniors, as eighth-graders, we went to the (league) championship and played Lisbon. We’ve been to regionals twice. We know what it’s like to lose, and we didn’t want that to happen again.”


Monmouth has won state championships in baseball before, but a victory Tuesday would be its first in Class C. The Mustangs last won the Class D championship in 2001, defeating Van Buren 12-2 in the final. They also won Class D titles in 1991 and 1992.

Monmouth Academy’s Isaac Oiliveira, right, flips over Sacopee Valley’s Carson Black after tagging him out during the Class C South final on June 14 in Gorham. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Getting that first Class C title against the defending state champs would be a fitting way to do it. Although Bucksport had major turnover from last year’s championship-winning team, it made it through Class C North nonetheless, outscoring opponents 31-1 in the postseason.

“Bucksport’s a very good team, and that’s a very good program,” Palleschi said. “I’ve coached a few of those kids in underclassmen games, so there’s a little familiarity there. They’re good players; they’re fast, they play great defense, and they pitch well. They’re going to put pressure on us.”

Should the Mustangs win, they’ll have a win over the defending state champs, the defending regional champs, the undefeated No. 1 seed and a powerhouse rival under their belts in the postseason alone. They’ll also get their first state title in boys sports since the cross-country team won in 2008.

“It’s a good feeling to show everyone who we really are by going back to states for the second time in three years,” Manny Calder said. “It would feel really good to come back with that Golden Glove and just show that, if you put in the work, you can do anything.”

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