When selecting a new varsity baseball coach, Winslow High School decided to stay in-house. Jesse LaCasse, who coached the Black Raiders’ junior varsity team last season, will move into the varsity dugout this season.

“I’ve definitely always wanted a varsity job,” LaCasse said.

A Madison native, LaCasse is the fourth coach in as many years for the Black Raiders. He replaces Kyle Gunzinger, who resigned in January.

A 2003 graduate of St. Joseph’s College, LaCasse is one of the top hitters in Monks’ history. LaCasse is St. Joe’s all-time leader in doubles (59), runs batted in (182), slugging percentage (.795) extra base hits (107), total bases (410), on-base percentage (.506) and OPS (1.300). LaCasse ranks second in Monks history in runs (179), hits (214) and home runs (41).

In 2004 and 2005, LaCasse was a player-coach for the Neunkirchen Nightmares, a baseball club in Germany, where he oversaw all levels of baseball from youth teams to the professional team for which he played.

Winslow athletic director Carrie Larrabee cited LaCasse’s baseball experience as a determining factor in his hiring.

“Everyone in the baseball community has such positive things to say about Jesse,” Larrabee said. “He was really overqualified to coach our JV team. The kids loved him.”

Winslow went 11-5 in 2011, missing the Eastern Class B playoffs by percentage points. LaCasse thinks the postseason is in reach.

“I believe we’re going to make the playoffs. We have a good pitching staff back,” LaCasse said.

LaCasse said he wants Winslow hitters to be aggressive.

“I’m not a guy who steals a lot. I don’t bunt a lot,” LaCasse said. “I want our guys to think about getting your pitch early in the count. I’ll try to promote better, smarter hitting.”

All high school hitters need to adjust to new bats this season. Bats must now meet a new safety standard, the Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR). Bats must have less of a trampoline effect, slowing the speed at which a hit baseball comes off the bat. LaCasse, who makes wooden bats, will give his players the option of swinging wood in games.

“We’re definitely swinging wood in practice,” LaCasse said. “From my experience, the BBCOR bats seem like a dead metal bat. I think we’ll have a good percentage of guys swinging wood. I think it’s going to be an interesting year hitting in high school.”

High school baseball practices begin March 19, when teams are allowed workouts with eight pitchers and two catchers. Full team practices begin March 26, with games beginning April 12. Winslow opens the season April 18 at home against rival Waterville, the two-time defending Class B state champion.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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