Eastern A is a tough softball league, but Lawrence coach Joey Marcoux still believed at the start of the season that his team could contend for a playoff spot. Then the games started and mistakes piled up. After five games, Lawrence had won once and the losses were by scores like 19-0 and 14-1.

“We had to sit down and do some regrouping,” Marcoux said. “We met with all the players individually. They all basically said, ‘We know what we need to do. We just need to make sure that we start doing this.’ “

The Bulldogs’ next game was against Bangor, a team that eventually reached the Eastern A final. Lawrence lost in eight innings, but just playing evenly with one of the top teams seemed to give the Bulldogs confidence. They went 6-5 the rest of the way and made the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

That makes Marcoux the choice as the Morning Sentinel Softball Coach of the Year. Skowhegan’s Lee Johnson, Madison’s Al Veneziano, and Carrabec’s Craig Knight were also considered.

In the previous five years, there had been several seasons where Lawrence faltered early and couldn’t get out of its funk. Marcoux remained a constant in the program. Next spring will be his 22nd season coaching the Bulldogs.

“Great kids,” Marcoux said. “Winning’s not everything. I love to win — I’ll fight tooth and nail to win — but it’s the relationships that you build. I cherish the time that I spend with the kids. I raised three girls of my own and I say every single season that I’m raising 12 or 14 girls for three months.”

“He was almost like a dad,” said senior pitcher Sarah Martin. “He made a point to not only work with you on what you needed to work on as a softball player, he also made a point to know what was going on in each of our lives.”

Marcoux also teaches at the junior high school, so he’s able to get to know and interact with his players before they come out for the team. He’s generally calm while coaching, but expects hard work.

“I always tell the kids, it’s the struggle to win, that’s what’s important,” Marcoux said. “Only one team’s going to win that final game at the end. But did you gain something out of it that’s going to be a life lesson for you as an athlete? That’s what’s important.”

With Martin pitching well and the Bulldogs able to keep their mistakes from snowballing, Lawrence proved it could play with anyone. There were close losses to Brewer and Messalonskee, and a 7-4 win over Bangor when the Bulldogs scored six runs in the top of the seventh inning. That victory over the Rams ultimately clinched a playoff spot.

“We just got ourselves together,” Martin said. “Once we started winning games that we weren’t supposed to win on paper, it became a lot of fun. It was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for my senior year to end better.”

“This was a very satisfying year, in seeing how hard this group of seniors worked,” Marcoux said. “When we put that game against Bangor away, that was (so) gratifying, seeing the looks on their faces, saying, ‘That means we’re in, right Coach?’ “

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]