Now that he’s coached Zach Hartsgrove for three seasons, Nokomis Regional High School baseball coach Jared Foster can pay his catcher a simple, yet perfect, compliment.

“Zach, he’s the type of kid that makes coaches look good,” Foster said.

This spring, the Warriors had their best baseball season in a generation, winning 14 games and earning a bye to the Class B North quarterfinals. Whether it was with the bat or behind the plate, Hartsgrove was a key to Nokomis’ success.

For his efforts in leading the Nokomis baseball resurgence, Zach Hartsgrove is the Morning Sentinel Baseball Player of the Year. Dustin Crawford of Bridgeway also was considered.

As the Warriors’ No. 3 hitter, Hartsgrove hit .461. Defensively, he was spectacular, throwing out 11 would-be base stealers. Hartsgrove was named first team all-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference for the third consecutive year.

“I’ve caught my entire life, and I’ve always had a knack for it,” said Hartsgrove, who also plays golf and basketball. “Throwing guys out was good and bad. I don’t have anybody stealing much anymore, and that’s my favorite thing to do, throw guys out.”

Foster pointed out that Nokomis pitchers deserve credit for keeping runners close, which allows Hartsgrove to show off his arm when the need arises. Hartsgrove’s overall defensive game has become a weapon the Warriors can use in a number of situations. A pitch Foster likes Nokomis pitchers to use as an out pitch is a curveball in the dirt, because he knows Hartsgrove will stop it.

Foster developed his trust of Hartsgrove early, allowing the catcher to call pitches as a freshman.

“I knew I could trust him calling the game. He is the leader of the team now,” Foster said. “We have six plays for when runners are on first and third (base). Now I just tell Zach to throw them out.”

Hartsgrove typically hit third in the Warriors lineup, and he set the tone in an early season game against Maranacook. With Nokomis trailing 1-0 in the sixth inning, Hartsgrove singled to drive in the tying run of what became a 2-1 Nokomis win. A few days later, Hartsgrove drove in three runs, including the game-winner, in a 5-3 win over Gardiner. In a key, late-season 1-0 win at Erskine, Hartsgrove scored the game’s only run on a popout just behind second base.

“Obviously, I get nervous, but I love being in that position, where I can possibly drive in the go-ahead run,” Hartsgrove said.

“I used to stress as a coach in the late innings,” Foster said. “Now I take a deep breath and say, well, Zach’s coming up.”

Hartsgrove recently played in the Maine underclassmen showcase game, along with teammate Josh Perry.

“That was a blast. I don’t get to see other classes and how many fantastic players there are in the state of Maine. It was a fantastic chance to represent Nokomis,” Hartsgrove said.

Nokomis went 14-3 this spring. While disappointed that the Warriors lost in the regional quarterfinals, Hartsgrove is looking forward to helping the team continue its success next season.

“We knew we were going to be strong. By far, this was my favorite season, baseball-wise,” Hartsgrove said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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