Spring Athletes of the Year: Deering Rams

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2009 Spring Male Athlete of the Year:

REGAN FLAHERTY, Senior-Baseball

* SMAA All-Conference first team, utility

* SMAA All-Conference second team, pitcher

* SMAA All-Defensive team

* All-Academic team

* Senior All-Star

The Deering baseball dynasty has featured an abundance of superb players over the past decade, but Regan Flaherty was one of a kind.

Like his older brother Ryan, Regan sparkled with the bat. He also was dominant on the hill, saving his best outing for the biggest game, was steady in the field and even with a scholarship to Vanderbilt University awaiting him, earned the rare distinction of being drafted right out of high school, when the Seattle Mariners took him in the 28th round last month.

While Flaherty is still deciding on where to go next, there’s little question that he won’t soon be forgotten for his contributions to the state’s premier baseball power.

In light of his pitching and hitting acumen, his leadership and his will to win, Regan Flaherty is The Forecaster’s choice as Deering’s 2009 Spring Male Athlete of the Year.

Flaherty comes by his baseball excellence naturally. He grew up around the always successful University of Southern Maine program, coached by his father, Ed. He grew up in Ryan’s shadow, but didn’t take long to create a legacy of his own.

Flaherty, with his father’s blessing, also played football and baseball until a knee injury his junior year. While far from 100 percent, he had his moments as a junior, then really sparkled this season, as a senior.

Deering would ultimately win all 20 of its countable games, stretching its three-season streak to a mindboggling 50 consecutive victories.

On the mound, Flaherty went 5-0 with a 2.65 earned run average. He all played an errorless first base and rightfield. At the dish, Flaherty hit .373, ripped four doubles, three triples and a home run and drove in 22 runs. He walked 13 times and struck out on only four occasions. He also went 3-for-3 in stolen base attempts.

Flaherty had a two-run triple against Windham, had a pair of hits while shutting out Thornton Academy, blasted a two-run homer and earned the victory in a key win over Westbrook, tripled and drove in three runs versus Kennebunk and had a single, double and triple against Bonny Eagle.

In the playoffs, Flaherty had a pair of hits as Deering blanked Portland in the quarterfinals, threw a three-hit, 10-strikeout gem in a semifinal victory over Cheverus, then came up huge in the state final versus Cony, throwing six shutout innings. Cony got to him for a run in the seventh and Flaherty eventually gave way to Mike Powers who slammed the door on Deering’s third straight title.

Flaherty is playing for the Nova Seafood American Legion team this summer. He will probably go to Vanderbilt and room with Mike Yastrzemski, the grandson of the former Red Sox’ Hall of Famer, but might be persuaded otherwise when the Mariners make him a contract offer.

Whatever happens, his future is very, very bright. Regan Flaherty, Deering’s 2009 Spring Male Athlete of the Year, has excelled on the diamond and figures to have even more triumph in his future.

Coach Mike Coutts’ comment: “Regan was a pleasure to coach. He worked hard. He, like the other seniors, was on a mission to win another state championship. He’s a quiet leader. He has a lot of skill. He can pitch and hit, play first base and the outfield. He did a lot of things for us. He probably pitched his best game in the state championship. He’ll be hard to replace.”

2008 winner: Taylor Candage (baseball)

2007 winner: Matt Watson (baseball)

2006 winner: Adam Rothbart (lacrosse)

2005 winner: Neall Oliver (tennis)

2004 winner: Ryan Reid (baseball)

2009 Spring Female Athlete of the Year:

MELISSA BELL, Senior-Softball

Switching schools is never an easy thing, especially if you’re at the start of your senior year.

That’s the predicament Melissa Bell found herself in, but Bell made the most of her opportunity. She stepped right in and became the lead pitcher for a young Deering softball team which got better as the year went along.

Bell threw a no hitter hitter against Cheverus to spur a second half surge which resulted in yet another playoff berth for the Rams.

For making a transition seamlessly and for coming up big at right time, Melissa Bell is The Forecaster’s selection as Deering’s 2009 Spring Female Athlete of the Year.

Bell grew up in Scarborough and started playing softball in the third grade. She was part of the always powerful Red Storm program before coming to the Rams and replaced Lesley Warn with aplomb.

Bell and her teammates started the year 1-3, then began to turn the corner when they gave Scarborough fits in a 3-2 loss, May 4. Two days later, Deering lost 3-2 to defending regional champion Biddeford in 10 innings. In that one, Bell allowed just three hits. Everything turned May 14, when Bell, two days removed from a rough first inning against Portland, pitched the game of her life against top contender Cheverus. The Rams won 4-0, but more importantly, Bell didn’t surrender a hit in an eight-strikeout performance.

Deering went 4-3 from that point to finish 7-9 and make the playoffs for the ninth year in a row. Down the stretch, Bell two-hit McAuley, fanned six in a victory over Sanford and bedeviled Windham with a three-hitter.

Bell, who played first base when not on the mound, could also be a factor on offense, scoring three times against Massabesic, homering against McAuley, driving in a pair of runs versus Kennebunk and ripping a pair of hits against Windham.

Deering lost 3-0 at Gorham in the Western A preliminary round, but Bell surrendered just three hits. She also tripled.

Bell also played basketball and field hockey in high school. She plans to take a gap year and ultimately wants to play softball in college. She’s interested in studying communications.

Making her mark at the next level doesn’t figure to be a problem. She proved that this season. Melissa Bell, Deering’s 2009 Spring Female Athlete of the Year, emphatically saved her best for the biggest moments.

Coach Maggie Soule’s comment: “Melissa is a very, very smart girl. Both in the classroom and on the field. She was very helpful. She knows the game very well. She helps her teammates. She blended in well this year.”

2008 winner: Lesley Warn (softball)

2007 winner: Chelsea Johnson (lacrosse)

2006 winner: Kate Bustin (softball)

2005 winner: Lesley Warn (softball)

2004 winner: Gina Axelson (softball)


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Sports Editor’s note: 

As usual, selecting the top male and female spring athletes from each school was a challenge, more so in some cases than in others. While coaches and athletic directors were consulted, the ultimate decision was mine, based on seeing all or part of 91 sporting events since mid-April. The following athletes weren’t always the most prolific performers or even necessarily in the spotlight, but I feel that each of them helped elevate their respective teams to greatness. Congratulations to all of the winners!

Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.