Winthrop High School baseball coach Marc Fortin will tell you he’s the same coach today that he was five years ago, or even 10. This year was his 18th with the Ramblers and the game remains the same.
But each season presents its own set of challenges and this spring Fortin faced two. The majority of his lineup was comprised of sophomores — the team had just one senior — and he only had three pitchers.
He handled both issues well, sprinkling his starting lineup with several sophomores and juggling three pitchers so each pitched once a week. Winthrop exceeded expectations in the Mountain Valley Conference, finishing 12-3, and was the only team to beat both St. Dominic and eventual Class C state champion Dirigo during the regular season.
For his efforts, Fortin has been named the Kennebec Journal Baseball Coach of the Year. Interim Hall-Dale coach Bob Sinclair and Cony coach Don Plourde were also considered.
Winthrop’s season nearly ended on a sour note in the quarterfinal round of the tournament. The Ramblers led Sacopee Valley 4-0 going into the seventh inning, then allowed seven runs and trailed 7-4. Fortin didn’t panic and neither did his players.
“I said ‘Hey, they scored seven, we can score four,’ ” Fortin said. “Then to do it all with two outs was pretty amazing.”
Fortin teaches eighth grade social studies which gives him a chance to know his players before they reach high school. Just as important, they get to know him.
“I would describe him as sort of laid-back,” junior pitcher Jared Hanson said. “But when we need help, he’s there. He knows what he’s talking about.”
Although Winthrop was not considered among the teams to beat in the MVC this spring, Fortin had faith in his young team from the start.
“They’ve been playing a lot of baseball together for a long time,” he said. “They’ve played on a bunch of all-star teams and had a lot of good coaching. I’m just one spoke in the wheel you could say.”
Fortin got the most of his pitching staff, which included Hanson, Ben Allen and Matt Sekerak. They threw 10 complete games among them and pitched all but a few innings.
“We had our pitchers throwing about 100 pitches and we threw them once a week,” Fortin said. “That’s what we were trying to go with and it worked.”
The Ramblers lost 2-0 to St. Dom’s in the semifinals, but also handed the Saints their first regular-season loss late in the season in Auburn. He said the experience his younger players gained in fall and winter sports paid off during the spring.
“We talked about that,” Fortin said. “These sophomores were going to have to play like juniors and they did. They were that much more mature by the spring season.”
Gary Hawkins — 621-5638