Chuck Gurney hoped to get a varsity coaching opportunity at Leavitt, his high school alma mater, but after nearly 10 years as JV softball coach at the Turner school, his optimism waned. Then he got a call from Winthrop.

“They said they’re looking to rebuild their program,” Gurney said. “That’s what I like doing.”

Gurney inherited a team that had one returning starter and had no JV program from which to draw. That was three years ago and the rebuilding process was underway.

The Ramblers went 3-13 in Gurney’s first year before taking a positive step a year ago when they went 5-11 and earned a preliminary-round tournament game. That set the stage for this season when Winthrop went 11-5 in the regular season and secured the No. 2 seed for the Class C South tournament.

For his effort, Gurney has been selected Kennebec Journal Softball Coach of the Year. Also considered were Oak Hill’s Allyson Collins and Gardiner’s Don Brochu.

Winthrop’s success didn’t end with the regular season. The Ramblers knocked off Telstar in the quarterfinals before beating Monmouth for the first time ever to reach the regional final. They fell to powerful Madison to finish at 13-6 overall.

“I was at a loss for words that the kids went that far,” Gurney said.

Gurney, who is employed at Bath Iron Works, played a key role in the team’s success, both during the summer and the regular season. He gets the most out of his players with a quiet approach that includes individual accountability.

“He treats us all like his own kids,” recently graduated catcher Kayleigh Oberg said. “He knows our potential and he wants us to play to that level.”

Gurney runs a summer team, including five incoming freshmen, that competes in the Oxford Hills league but he’s pushing to establish a tournament team that competes around the state. He hopes to take his current group to a tournament later this month.

“(I’d like to) take then to that next level,” he said. “I think they’re there now.”

Oberg, who competes on a travel team, also is still eligible to play for Gurney’s summer team and is grateful for his help.

“It was his idea to stick around and build a program,” she said. “He believed in me and opened up opportunities for travel teams.”

Gurney’s role model was his late father Richard.

“My dad was my idol,” he said. “He told me kids won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. On game days I drink a black coffee in tribute to him.”

The program remains in good shape despite the loss of Oberg and two other seniors. The 12-under team recently won their league championship and there’s plenty of young talent returning to the high school squad.

“He does a great job including the parents and getting everyone involved in Winthrop softball,” Oberg said. “He is very adamant in that everyone has a role on the team.”