Having just completed his 38th year of coaching and 81st high school season, Lars Jonassen learned long ago not to get too high or too low based on his team’s record.

Even as his Erskine Academy baseball team went 1-15 last season, Jonassen praised his players’ attitude and work ethic. Better times were right around the corner, he thought, despite being the smallest school in the competitive Class A division of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference.

“Right from the onset the expectations were to be competitive,” Jonassen said. “I had hoped (we’d) be in the .500 range.”

The Eagles got off to a fast start, hit a serious mid-season slump, then bounced back to win three of the their last four games to finish at 9-7 and make the playoffs. They took second-seeded Bangor to the final out before falling 5-3 in the Eastern Maine Class A tournament.

For his efforts, Jonassen has been named Kennebec Journal Baseball Coach of the year. Monmouth coach Eric Palleschi, who led his team from two wins a year ago to the playoffs this season, was also considered.

Jonassen, who teaches math at Erskine, said next year will probably be his last in the classroom, yet he hopes to continue coaching after that, preferably at the junior varsity level. Between high and junior high, he coached 81 seasons, much of it in the Fairfield school system, in sports ranging from field hockey to softball, basketball and baseball.

He’s been varsity baseball coach at Erskine for seven years and is looking forward to what should be a strong year for the Eagles next season.

“He really gets down the athletes’ level,” Erskine assistant Dan Grady said. “He puts academics first and baseball is a close second.”

Academics weren’t a problem this season for the team which compiled a cumulative grade point average of 91.2. Also up were batting averages, while earned run averages for the pitching staff fell significantly.

“The first day of practice the kids seemed to be different,” Jonassen said. “I think they just grew up a year. I think we went a little beyond what I expected..”

Practices were a little different, too. Jonassen adopted a number of collegiate drills and habits and, as Grady said, “the kids bought into it. When I first got there he was old school. He’s changing with the times.”

Baseball has always been Jonassen’s first love among the many sports he coached. He rarely complains about a call which feeds into his overall respect for the game.

“I was born and brought up in baseball in Fairfield,” he said. “I think it’s a gentlemanly sport and I think it’s terrifically officiated.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

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