Monmouth Academy senior Kyle Fletcher adapted to a couple of fairly significant changes this season and he and the Mustangs were better off for it.

The leadoff hitter and starting pitcher suddenly found himself batting third and coming out of the bullpen. It worked out well as Monmouth finished atop the Western Maine Class C standings and reached the semifinals of the tournament before bowing out with a record of 16-2.

For his efforts, Fletcher has been named Kennebec Journal Baseball Player of the Year. Also considered were Cony’s Tayler Carrier and Payton Kennison.

Fletcher has been playing baseball “for as long as I can remember,” and likes everything about the game.

“A lot of people don’t like it, but I love it,” he said. “You’ve got to think all the time.”

When he’s not on the mound, the left-hander plays center field. He’s a good athlete, who is the school’s all-time goal scorer in soccer, but hard work propelled him to a higher level in baseball.

“His work ethic and preparation off the field has made him what he is, throwing the baseball, working out,” Monmouth coach Eric Palleschi said. “The last couple of years the strength he’s acquired has been huge.”

Palleschi moved Fletcher to the No. 3 spot in the batting order this season and it paid off as he finished with a .527 average with 28 runs scored. He also belted seven doubles, three triples and drove in 19 runs.

“I’ve hit leadoff ever since I was 7 years old,” Fletcher said. “In the leadoff role, you want to keep working the count. In the three spot, anytime I got a good pitch, I was just letting loose.”

Becoming a relief pitcher was another new role for Fletcher, who finished 4-0 with an earned run average of 0.94. He allowed just three runs in 28 2/3 innings with 35 strikeouts and 15 walks. He also picked six runners off base.

“Last year I got a dead arm and had no velocity on my pitches,” Fletcher said. “Coach didn’t want that to happen again. Near the end of the year I liked it a lot. It gives me a little more freedom to go right at batters.”

Fletcher used his available innings in a quarterfinal relief appearance against Carrabec and wasn’t available to pitch against unbeaten Sacopee, which rallied in the late innings to down the Mustangs 8-6.

Next year, he’ll attend Thomas College where he was recruited to play both soccer and baseball. He holds the Monmouth record for goals in soccer at 70. The chance to play two sports he enjoys was a selling point, but so was the school’s sports management program, which is ranked among the best in the country.

“I was looking at a couple of schools but they were just so far away,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher will earn an MBA in the program which would qualify him for anything from scouting to becoming an athletic director.

“I’d love to be able to coach at the college level,” he said.

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