He couldn’t pitch, but that didn’t leave a black mark on Dylan Hapworth’s senior year of baseball at Winslow High School. On the contrary, not taking the mound regularly may have made Hapworth, already a strong hitter, even better at the plate.

“It was extreme focus every time. Being confident you can get a hit. Take the focus off pitching and just 100 percent focused on hitting makes it, for me, much easier,” Hapworth said.

In June, Hapworth completed a strong four-year varsity career with arguably his best season. Hapworth hit .552, with three home runs, 37 runs batted in, and 25 runs scored. In the two times he was asked to pitch, Hapworth was clutch, picking up a save in the season opener against rival Waterville, and another save in the Eastern Class B semifinals against previously undefeated Old Town.

Hapworth’s strong season was a key to Winslow’s success, as the Black Raiders advanced to the Eastern Class B championship game. For his efforts, Dylan Hapworth is the Morning Sentinel Baseball Player of the Year. Also considered were Zach Mathieu and Jake Dexter of Messalonskee.

This season, Hapworth made a slight adjustment to his hitting approach. In the past, Hapworth would try to hit the ball hard in the air. This season, Hapworth focused on making contact.

“I went up with a two strike approach every time. Just hit a nice hard ground ball. Some turn into line drives, some hard ground balls. They amount to hits,” Hapworth said. “People just tried to pitch away from me. They threw whatever they threw other kids, just outside or high.”

“He obviously has power, anyway. He was going to hit some out,” Winslow baseball coach Aaron Wolfe said. “He was trying to hit line drives. He did a much better job picking his spots, when to be aggressive. I don’t know if there was one game he didn’t have a hit.”

Hapworth’s success had ramifications throughout the Winslow lineup. For instance, hitting in the cleanup spot behind Hapworth, shortstop Alex Berard took advantage of the opportunities to drive in runs, with 26 RBIs in the regular season.

“I was always confident coming to the plate knowing (Hapworth) was probably going to be on base. It was great hitting knowing you’ll have a chance to move a guy along or drive him in,” Berard said.

Early in the season, Hapworth moved from third base to center field.

“Anything in the outfield, I’m comfortable with. We had Robbie (Petrovic) step in at third, and I think he did a great job,” Hapworth said.

Added Wolfe: “He played wherever we asked him to, but I know (center field) is a more natural position for him. That gave us a really strong outfield. He’s got as strong an arm as anybody. He doesn’t have to show off the arm all the time. When he was a freshman or sophomore, every throw was 100 miles per hour. He’s a smart player.”

That arm. Over the last three years, Hapworth harnessed a good fastball and a nasty curve to become one of the top pitchers in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, and he was expected to be among the league’s best again this season. But an arm injury limited Hapworth to those two save situations. Hapworth came on to get the final two outs in a season-opening 10-9 win at Waterville. He didn’t pitch again until mid-June, when Wolfe called on him to get the final two outs in the Black Raiders’ 3-1 playoff win at Old Town.

“We talked. (Wolfe) said if anyone gets on, I’m going to bring you in. I said sure thing. I was just ready to go,” Hapworth said. “I can play outfield fine. I can throw it in hard 10 times a game if I have to. It’s no big deal. Pitching, hard consecutively, 90 to 100 pitches, that’s not going to work for me.”

In his 1 1/3 innings pitched, Hapworth struck out three hitters, all with the bases loaded, and allowed one hit.

This summer, Hapworth is playing for the Post 51 American Legion team. Last month, Hapworth played for Team Maine in a senior all-star game against New Hampshire.

“They threw pretty hard. Probably harder than anything I’ve seen all year. It’s a game you just show up and have fun with it,” Hapworth said.

He’ll also play in the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl all-star football game next weekend, his final football game before going to the University of Southern Maine, where he’ll join Ed Flaherty’s baseball squad.

“There’s definitely the possibility to play. I’ve just got to earn a spot,” Hapworth said. “I’ll just keep practicing and practicing. I look forward to having unlimited access to the (batting) cage. That’s something I love to do. I’d be in there all day.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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