WATERVILLE — Of all the winners of the Dr. John Winkin Award, Jackson Coutts’ can make the case for having the closest ties to the award’s namesake. A recent graduate of Orono High School, Coutts was presented the Winkin Award as the state’s top high school baseball player Friday afternoon at Colby College between games of the Senior All-Star doubleheader.

Coutts’ father, Mike Coutts, played college baseball for Winkin at the University of Maine, then was an assistant coach under Winkin with the Black Bears for a decade.

“It’s pretty special, seeing my dad played for Coach Winkin and he coached with him for awhile,” Coutts said. “They had a great relationship.”

A member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame, Winkin coached at Colby before leading Maine to the College World Series six times. Winkin died in 2014. Winning the award that bears Winkin’s name is an honor, Coutts said, remembering meeting Winkin one time at an event at Colby.

“I knew him a little bit. I was pretty young,” Coutts said.

This spring, Coutts led Orono to the Class C state championship. His leadoff double to open the bottom of the seventh inning sparked the Red Riots comeback over Lisbon and began the four-run rally that led to Orono’s 4-3 win. A catcher/pitcher/infielder, Coutts’ bat was the most feared in the Penobscot Valley Conference this spring. In 20 games, Coutts was intentionally walked 25 times. In a game against Central High School, Coutts was intentionally walked with the bases loaded. Coutts hit a deep home run earlier in the game, and Central’s coaching staff was happy to concede one run rather than take the chance Coutts could hit another blast.

“It was pretty frustrating at first, then I adjusted to it. I kind of laughed at it. This year was unbelievable,” Coutts said. “Everybody behind me started to hit pretty well. I scored a lot of runs. It worked out for the best.”

Coutts said his father, who currently is head softball coach at the University of Maine, has been a big influence on his baseball career.

“He’d always do BP (batting practice) with me, play catch with me, hit ground balls, anything baseball whenever I asked. That was pretty helpful,” Coutts said.

Coutts will continue his baseball career at the University of Rhode Island. He said he’s not sure what position he’ll play for the Rams, but he’s open to anything his coaches ask.

“I think going down to Rhode Island is going to be a lot of fun. Play some more baseball for four more years. It’s what I love to do, so it can’t get better than that,” Coutts said.

Joining Coutts as finalists for the Winkin Award were Jared Brooks of Cheverus, Alex Maxsimic of Brewer, Trevor Labonte of York, Cam Guarino of Falmouth, Nate Howard of Erskine, Zach Nash of Hermon, Dustin Crawford of Bridgeway, Brandon Burnell of Sacopee Valley, and Barrett Grant of Searsport.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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