Messalonskee’s Ty Bernier drops his bat after a successful bunt in a game against Mt. Ararat on June 5 in Oakland. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

AUGUSTA — The memories of the last time the Messalonskee baseball team faced Scarborough come back to Ty Bernier in bits and pieces.

Bernier, now a junior second baseman for the Eagles, was 5-years-old when Messalonskee defeated Scarborough to win the 2012 Class A state title. It was a triumphant day in the Bernier household as Ty watched his father, head coach Ray Sr., and his older brother, assistant Ray Jr., lead the team to glory.

“Honestly, I don’t remember much about the game, but it was still a great memory,” Bernier said. “I remember being there and seeing my dad excited and my brother excited. I kind of grew up with that team, and watching them win and succeed was really special.”

At 1 p.m. Saturday, the Eagles will go for their first state title since that 2012 triumph when they again face the Red Storm. The showdown at Morton Field will pit Messalonskee’s dangerous lineup against an equally potent Scarborough pitching staff that’s been nearly unflappable this year.

All season long, Messalonskee (16-3, No. 2 seed in Class A North) has been a team of mashers. Batting .340 as a team, the Eagles enter the state championship averaging 7.8 runs per game. They’ve scored four or fewer runs on just four occasions this season.

Messalonskee has two hitters above the .400 mark in Michael Achorn (.426, five home runs) and Denny Martin (.424). Bernier (.388) is close, and Garrett Card (.343) has also put together an impressive season. Achorn (26), Bernier (26), Martin (24), Card (23), Parker Reynolds (22) and Cash Bizier (21) all have 20-plus hits. 

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“We have some great leaders — seniors, juniors and even us sophomores — and everybody out there is doing their job and doing their part,” Martin said. “It’s a team effort. We know that anyone in our lineup can step up and get that big hit for us. It’s not just one guy or a couple guys.”

That sets up for an appetizing clash with a Scarborough team that boasts an outstanding pitching staff. The Red Storm (18-1, No. 1 seed in A South), who allowed just three runs in the regional tournament, are allowing just 1.94 per game this season and have allowed more than three runs just twice.

Scarborough’s Mason Porter, center, celebrates with teammate Zak Sanders after scoring a run during a May 16 game against Falmouth. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Although staff ace Erik Swenson won’t be available for Scarborough on Saturday, the Red Storm will still have a steady arm on the mound in Ryan Shugars (4-0, 0.54 ERA). Should the lefty run into any trouble, Zak Sanders (4-0, 1.04 ERA) is prepared to handle a heavy load in relief.

“They’re two guys that limit damage and are going to make you beat them instead of beating themselves,” said Scarborough head coach Wes Ridlon. “They limit those big innings, and that, to me, is the biggest thing. It’s one thing to give up a run here or there, but it’s those big innings that are going to put you back on your heels.”

Scarborough’s lineup, meanwhile, is hitting its best at the right time with 42 runs scored over its past six games. Matthew Fallona, who had two hits in the Red Storm’s 5-0 Class A South final win over Falmouth, leads the way with a .404 average, and Sanders (.345) is also a key contributor.

Martin (3-0, 3.09 ERA) will be the man tasked with navigating that lineup for Messalonskee. The sophomore, whose best effort this season came as he threw six innings of no-hit ball May 15 against Bangor, expects a strong challenge from the Red Storm on Saturday.

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“They’re a great team, and they’ve done some great things this year,” Martin. “With the way we’re playing, the team we have and the chemistry we have, I think it’s going to be a good game. I trust Michael behind the dish, and I trust everyone in the field, so I think we have a good chance to do something special.”

Messalonskee’s Denny Martin pitches to a Skowhegan batter during a baseball game May 29 in Madison. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

Both teams have thrived in close games this season. Scarborough has won 11 of its 18 games by three or fewer runs, while Messalonskee has won by that margin in eight of its 16 victories. The Eagles won by a single run in their regional semifinal win against Skowhegan (6-5) and title game win over Bangor (4-3).

Although Scarborough is well-rounded in all aspects, one thing that jumps out, Messalonskee head coach Eric Palin said, is the Red Storm’s team speed. The key, then, will be keeping the Southern Maine champs off the basepaths, something Palin is confident in his team’s ability to do.

“What I can tell is that they’re pretty fast — they have a lot of stolen bases — and they’re a team that’s going to beat you with their pitching,” Palin said. “I expect our pitching to be able to hold them down to a reasonable amount to give our offense a chance to win this game.”

Both teams have won two state titles with Messalonskee winning in 1973 (Class B) prior to the A title in 2012 and Scarborough winning Class B in 1986 and Class A in 2019. Yet it will be the first state championship for one of the two coaches, both of whom are in their fourth seasons at the helm.

“I think we expect it to be a great baseball game,” Ridlon said. “Obviously, if you’ve made it this far, you’re a solid team. It’ll come down to fundamentals and who executes, and I think it’ll be a great game and a great challenge for us.”

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