The 2016 season was the best one in recent memory for the Nokomis Regional High School baseball team. The Warriors won 11 games and reached the Class B North semifinals. The success came around midseason, when the team began showing the talent coach Jared Foster had touted since the team began practices in the gym in March.

“The kids finally believed in themselves,” Foster said.

For his role in igniting Nokomis’ turnaround, Jared Foster is the Morning Sentinel Baseball Coach of the Year. Also considered was Rusty Mercier of Lawrence, who led the Bulldogs to the Class A North playoffs after a few seasons away, Mike LeBlanc, who coached Skowhegan to the playoffs in his first season with the Indians, and Scott Franzose, who led Madison to a 14-win season.

The 11-win season was a big improvement from 2015, in which the Warriors won just four games with a young team. The key to Nokomis’ season was a seven-game winning streak that included playoff victories at two higher seeded opponents, Foxcroft Academy and Winslow. After an up and down first half of the season, the Warriors finally began to play well in all three phases of the game: hitting, pitching, and defense.

“(Foster) told us, keep pushing through, and it will eventually come together,” said Zach Hartsgrove, the Warriors all-conference catcher, said. “He knew we had a good team with a lot of potential.”

“We played well all year, but we stopped making silly errors,” Foster said.

A Old Town native, Foster counts his high school baseball coach, Dave Paul, as one of his coaching influences. Another influence is the late Dr. John Winkin, for whom Foster played in college at Husson University. Foster said he and Winkin developed a close bond. When Foster graduated, Winkin gave him a big hug and said, “I’m taking credit for this one.”

“(Winkin) taught me how to be a better person, really,” Foster said. “He taught me to focus on baseball and not the other stuff that sometimes goes with college.”

Like his mentors, Foster demands a lot from his players. When they see the results of their hard work, they gladly give the effort.

“He’s always pushing us to the next level. He’s always on us to do things the right way,” Hartsgrove said.

This season was Foster second in his second stint as Nokomis head baseball coach. He stepped down in 2012 to finish working on his masters degree in Education Leadership. When he completed his coursework, the Nokomis job happened to be open again. After discussing it with his wife, Foster decided to get back into coaching.

The Warriors lose just three seniors to graduation, and Foster hopes the success the team found this season is a springboard to greater things in the next few years.

“I pretty much have my entire team back. They’re good baseball players. Now they know they can go someplace in baseball,” Foster said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM