Last fall, when Madison and Carrabec high schools announced they would be merging their baseball programs as the Bridgeway Bandits, then-Madison head baseball coach Scott Franzose didn’t flinch. He’d been through this before. Franzose was an assistant football coach at Madison when the Bulldogs welcomed Carrabec players to the team, and has been head coach of the combined football program for the past five seasons.

“A lot of players were concerned about stepping into something new,” Franzose said. “But these guys came ready to play ball. These guys made it easy. There were really no hiccups along the way.”

Bridgeway won 13 games, including an 11-game win streak to end the regular season, and earned the top seed in the Class B South tournament, where it lost to eventual state champion Yarmouth. For his role in turning the new Bridgeway team into an instant contender, Scott Franzose is the Morning Sentinel Baseball Coach of the Year. Jared Foster of Nokomis also was considered.

“He’s seen us play as rivals for many years. He knew a lot of us had played together over the years. He really did an excellent job helping us come together and play together as a team,” senior Ryan Emery said of Franzose.

Franzose knew the returning Madison players were talented, and he knew Carrabec had a group of talented athletes who had given his Bulldogs fits when they were opponents.

“I knew they were going to more than likely be impact players,” Franzose said.

The Bandits started out slowly, losing three of their first five games. A 4-3 loss to Oak Hill in early May dropped Bridgeway’s record to 2-3, but it also sparked the team’s season. The Bandits led that game early before it unraveled in one bad inning.

“With that Oak Hill game, we felt like we had a tendency to score a few runs and sit on our laurels,” Franzose said. “We began to stress never enough. No matter how far up or how far down we were, it was never enough. Every inning was a chance to score.”

Franzose’s passion quickly caught on with the team, Emery said, and that instilled confidence.

“He likes to be on point. He likes things done, and he wants them to be the right way. He’s always enthusiastic. He wants to win every game, no matter who it is. He always knows we can win. He’s a great coach,” Emery said.

Bridgeway’s immediate success was recognized by the Mountain Valley Conference. Dustin Crawford, one of the impact players from Carrabec, was named conference player of the year. Franzose was named MVC coach of the year.

The combined enrollment of Madison and Carrabec pushed the Bandits into Class B. With new co-op team enrollment rules going in place next season, Franzose said he’s not sure if Bridgeway will continue to play in Class B, or back in Class C with most of the other MVC schools. No matter where the Bandits are placed for tournament purposes, they’ll be ready.

“I think we proved no matter where we are, we can get it done,” Franzose said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM