May 21, 2013

USM's Dexter: A young star yearns to learn

Sam Dexter is just a freshman, but the talented shortstop has a thirst for baseball knowledge.

By Tom Chard tchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

GORHAM - University of Southern Maine freshman shortstop Sam Dexter is the son of a coach, so it stands to reason he has an edge on many players his age when it comes to understanding the nuances of baseball.

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Sam Dexter hadn’t won a championship until he led Messalonskee High to the state title in 2012. A year later, he’s got a second title, the NCAA Division III New England crown.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

D-III BASEBALL

WHAT: Eight-team, double-elimination tournament to determine the national champion

WHEN: Friday-Tuesday

WHERE: Appleton, Wis.

USM'S OPENER: 11 a.m. Friday, vs. Millsaps College (from Jackson, Miss.)

That hasn't stopped Dexter's thirst for learning more. In fact, it's probably whetted his appetite.

"Sam picks things up quickly and he wants to know more," said Huskies Coach Ed Flaherty.

As an example, Flaherty told about getting a text message from Dexter after a game earlier in the season asking about a cutoff play. The ball was hit down the line in short left field with a runner on first. Dexter wanted to remove any question he had of whether he should cut to third base or to second. The short answer was that he should cut to second because you want keep the hitter on first.

"I was impressed that he would take the time to text me," said Flaherty. "Not too many freshman would do that."

Flaherty knew he was getting a gem when he was recruiting Dexter out of Messalonskee High in Oakland.

"He is everything I thought he would be and more. If he's not the best freshman I've had at USM, he's certainly one of the best. I've had good ones, but this kid is special," said Flaherty, now in his 28th season with the Huskies.

Dexter, 19, has been showing how special all season -- but it was accentuated last week in the Division III regionals in Harwich, Mass. Dexter powered the Huskies to the title and a trip to the Division III World Series in Appleton, Wis., with home runs in consecutive game wins over Western New England and Endicott on Saturday -- both in must-win situations. His second homer broke a 2-2 tie with Endicott in the ninth en route to a 5-2 win to force a deciding game for the championship, which USM won 9-0 the next day.

USM will play the opening game at 11 a.m (EDT) on Friday in the national tournament. The Huskies (42-8) first meet Millsaps College of Jackson, Miss.

A year ago, when Messalonskee won the Class A state title, Dexter remarked that it was the first championship team he had played on. Less than a year later, he's played on his second.

"It's been a lot of fun," said Dexter. "Obviously when you've won 42 games, it's going to be fun. With the kind of guys we have on this team, I've been very fortunate to have this opportunity. We've been battle-tested all year. We're excited about playing in the nationals."

Having won over 800 games and two national titles at USM, Flaherty is not easily impressed. That changes watching Dexter.

"I'm amazed by the things he does as a freshman," said the coach. "He's a good as there is at this level and he's getting better and better. Sam is uncanny to watch."

Flaherty talked about a relay throw Dexter made in the 5-2 win over Endicott.

"The Endicott batter hit the ball over the center fielder's head. It was in the bottom of the eighth inning with the score tied. When he hit it, I was thinking triple. Sam took the cutoff throw in the outfield and threw the runner out at third. It was like a major league throw. If the runner gets to third, he likely would have scored, which would have put a lot of pressure on us in the ninth," he said.

(Continued on page 2)

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