St. Dominic Academy catcher Ridge Dionne tags Mt. Abram’s Ash Rollins out at the plate on May 3 in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

If he was able to give advice to his younger self, St. Dom’s catcher Ridge Dionne’s message would be simple.

“Trust the process, coach knows best,” Dionne said. “Back then, I don’t know if I knew that too well, but I sure do know now. The last four years have been great.”

Dionne and his fellow seniors’ four-year run with a chance for the Saints (17-2) to win their third straight title when they face Stearns (15-4) in the Class D final Saturday at 1 p.m. at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham.

A a freshman in 2021, Dionne was the only catcher on the St. Dom’s roster, and like many of the players on that team who are seniors now, he had to learn on the fly at the varsity level.

“It was very frustrating. I remember my first game, I kind of lost the game for us,” Dionne said. “From then, I feel like we have come a long way, but it has definitely been frustrating figuring everything out, being the only guy. There’s a lot of pressure put on you, but I am glad I was able to stick with it, actually, stay with it and not give up, be here every day for my teammates.”

Dionne noted he let a lot of pass balls past him during his freshman season.

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The 2021 season was a learning experience for everyone, and all the players were making mistakes.

“We were all at the same level. We were all freshmen, starting out — you can’t really hold anything against him,” senior pitcher Ashton Hammond said.

Coach Bob Blackman said Dionne has since improved every season behind the dish.

“It’s twofold: it was a learning experience for Ridge, and our hands were tied,” Blackman said. “He was the only catcher, so you had to live with it, but as he got older and wiser, matured, it became a pleasure the last two years to the point where we have trust in one another. He has a pretty good idea of what I am thinking, and so forth.”

GETTING BETTER WITH COMPETITION

One of the best things to happen to Dionne was another catcher, Brady Blash, joining the team in 2023.

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It forced Dionne to improve, according to Blackman.

“I contribute to having Brady on the roster as being a real factor in that,” Blackman said.

Dionne welcomed the addition of another catcher to the roster.

“I think it was actually really good for me,” Dionne said. “Obviously, competition is going to make you play hard, try harder, give it more with everything you have. Honestly, I thank him for giving me the extra motivation to be the best catcher I can — the best player I can be.”

Blash knew early on that if there was a competition to be the team’s starting catcher, Dionne had the skill set for the job.

“Maybe a little bit,” Blash, a sophomore, said of his chances of winning the job. “As it (went) on, Ridge probably had it locked down because he had the years, he had the experience, had the in-game awareness way more than I did. Even though he had the position locked down, it helped me get better at catching.”

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Blash said the two catchers speak in between innings to go over the decisions Dionne made the previous half-inning.

Dionne has continued to improve at the different facets of playing catcher. Fewer balls get past him, and teams don’t run on him as much because of his increased arm strength.

Blackman estimates that opposing teams have less than 10 stolen bases this season because of Dionne’s arm.

Saint Dominic Academy’s Ridge Dionne dives back to first safely during a pickoff attempt during Saturday’s playoff game against Greenville/Piscataquis in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“I like to know that teams don’t like to run on me because they see I have an arm,” Dionne said. “It gives me a bit of confidence, but it has been a long learning curve. Freshmen year, I couldn’t even make a throw down there (to second base). Now, I feel it’s coming with ease.”

The strides he’s made behind the play gives the Saints pitchers confidence because they know Dionne will likely dig their throws out of the dirt if they are off target.

“I can spike curveballs and sliders, and I don’t have to worry about it getting behind him,” Hammond said.

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Hammond added Dionne is also good at framing the pitches to get the borderline calls to be strikes.

BUILDING CHEMISTRY

A good catcher has is relationships with his battery mates, and Dionne has developed that with St. Dom’s pitchers, particularly Hammond and Timothee Ouellette, another senior.

“You definitely get closer to a catcher when you throw to him that long,” Ouellette said. “I go out there, and he knows where I am going to throw every time. We get in that rhythm and it’s been so nice to have him the past three years. It’s been great.”

Ouellette and Dionne hit second and third, respectively in the batting order. They try to feed off each other.

“Going to the cage all the time, we have gotten close,” Ouellette said. “Him hitting behind me, I always feel confident to have a guy to hit me in when I am on base.”

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The duo has done a lot of damage at the plate this year. Dionne has a .332 average, six doubles and two triples while driving in 21 runs. Ouellette is batting .367 with one homer, five doubles nine triples and 28 RBIs.

As with his catching, Dionne has slowly got better at the plate.

“My freshman year, I couldn’t do much of anything,” Dionne said. “But I started to attack the fastball and the ball out of the hand way better, and trust the process. Coach has been preaching it for years, going the other way, staying inside the baseball. I don’t think I wanted to listen to him freshman year — I wish I had, because since I have there’s been a lot of improvement.”

St. Dominic Academy catcher Ridge Dionne reacts after hitting a triple during Saturday’s Class D South semifinal win over Greenville/Piscataquis in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Dionne has had big hits during the Saints’ postseason run this year, including an RBI double in the regional final win over Richmond, and an RBI triple against Greenville/Piscataquis in the D South semifinals.

Dionne’s batting average in 2021 was .239, then improved to .270 in 2022, and skyrocketed to .323 in last year.

As Dionne and the Class of 2024 have improved, so have the Saints. They were winless in the 2021 regular season but won two playoff games. The following season, St. Dom’s went 6-8 in the regular season before winning the Class D title, and last spring the Saints were 11-5 then repeated as state champions.

This season, they went 14-2 and for the first time earned the No. 1 seed in Class D South. They’ve taken care of business in three postseason games and now go for their third consecutive state title and the program’s eighth.

The pressure is high, but Dionne said he’s going to enjoy his final game as a high school catcher.

“Nerves are high right now; I am a little nervous,” Dionne said. “But when I get out there, it’s going to be amazing. I am hoping we can go out the right way.”

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