Scott Hartsgrove is feeling excited. And nervous.

The high school baseball season is only days away from officially getting started, and Hartsgrove, the new Nokomis coach, will be just as eager as his players to get going.

“For sure, I’m on the nervous side. This is my first job as a head coach, and I definitely don’t want to let the players down,” he said. “But with that being said, I trust them, I believe they trust me, so I’m really excited for it.”

He’s hardly alone. Change at the top is a theme going into the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference baseball season, with former Gardiner coach Russell Beckwith taking over at Waterville and first-time varsity head coach Charlie Lawrence taking his place.

It’s also a story on the softball field, where junior varsity coach Al Brochu takes over for Rocky Gaslin at Cony after Gaslin stepped down following a successful 13-season career with the Rams.

“He was afraid of letting the program go to a stranger. Once he learned that it would be going to me, he was a little more ready to let it go,” said Brochu, who had worked as an assistant with the program since 2008. “It’s not new to me. I have a good strong relationship with the older kids in the system.”


The spring sports season gets underway Monday, when pitchers and catchers can start practicing.

Brochu knows the shoes he’s filling. Brochu was on Gaslin’s staff for one playoff team after another, including 2012, when the Rams defeated Scarborough to win the Class A title. But Gaslin, longing for more time to spend with family, had been thinking for years of leaving the program, and knowing Brochu would be available to take over made it easier when he made the decision official in December.

“I knew Al was available and I knew the kids had a very good replacement with Al Brochu,” he said. “I think he’s probably more laid-back than I am. He’s more of a laid-back coach, explains things very well, is very technical and he’s very positive with the kids.”

Brochu, whose daughters Arika and Alyssa played for the Rams, is no coaching rookie. He coached the year-round Maine Thunder program for six years, and he said he’s ready to guide Cony to what he hopes will be an improvement on last year’s 8-8 record and quarterfinal exit.

“I don’t see it as pressure. It’s more like a standard,” he said. “As long as we play to our potential, the standard will stay where it is.”

Brochu said the key to improving in the standings will be finding where each player fits and where she can play most naturally.


“I think that kids, especially under the age of 16, 17, they do better if I put them in a position where it’s tougher to fail,” he said. “If I can put them into a position where they can be relatively successful, the confidence just skyrockets from there.”

That player familiarity will be less of an asset for Beckwith, who takes over the Purple Panthers after guiding Gardiner to an 11-5 mark and the Class B North preliminaries.

“It’s a sense of excitement, a fresh change of scenery and a new group of athletes to work with, so I’m excited to get things started,” said Beckwith, who is a graduate of Thomas College in Waterville. “I know what Waterville has done in the past and what we would like to do as a program, and I look forward to trying to improve upon those things.”

Beckwith didn’t elaborate on reasons for leaving Gardiner, which he made official in the fall, but said that the Purple Panthers and their 12-4 record last year were an ideal fit.

“I think the biggest thing for me coming in is just the excitement with what I’ve been able to see from the Waterville baseball team already,” he said. “There’s not a lot of changing, it’s really just getting (yourself) in with the personnel and seeing how that’s all going to fit in the big picture.”

Beckwith said that he expects Waterville to look like his Gardiner teams did — balanced and competitive.


“I’m very confident and comfortable that once they’re all together and we’re actually getting started playing baseball that we’ll have a group that will be competitive within the KVAC from what I’ve seen in the past,” he said.

The task of taking over the Tigers fell to Lawrence, a first-year varsity coach after serving as the JV coach and a varsity assistant.

“It’s a combination of excitement and nerves,” he said. “We’re excited to get started. Once the season gets moving and we get the practices going, I’m sure we’ll settle in and the nerves will go away. Then it’s just baseball.”

Lawrence pointed to the eight seniors coming back from last year’s playoff team as reasons to aim high in his first season.

“I think a good goal to set for the kids is to win enough games to (make) the playoffs. At that point, hopefully we’re playing the best baseball of the year for us and we can make a run,” he said. “We have a good group of seniors coming back, we have two or three solid pitchers returning to us. So we have high expectations.”

Lawrence has also spent nearly 20 years coaching in the Gardiner Cal Ripken and Little League system, and said that the youth programs are set up to keep the program strong after this wave of players goes through.


“We have a great feeder program down here with Gardiner Cal Ripken and our middle school program,” he said. “We’ve got some real good young guys coming through that we’re excited about. There’ll be no rebuilding, it’ll be just reloading.”

In Nokomis, Hartsgrove takes control of a team that, led by his son Zach, went 14-2 last year and reached the Class B North semifinals.

“It’s a strong group of seniors, it’s a strong group of juniors,” he said. “Right down the line, even the sophomores are strong as well and we have freshmen funneling in where they need to be. It does look good for baseball at Nokomis.”

The job opened up after Jared Foster left for another district, and it didn’t take long for Hartsgrove, who had served as an assistant for three years, to decide to go for the position.

“Whether it’s called paying my dues or whatnot, I had the opportunity and I was like ‘You know what, now’s the time to take it.’ ” he said. “Once I initially said ‘Yeah, I’m going to do it,’ I went all-in from there.”

Hartsgrove said the key to a successful first season will be working with each player, so that the progression of each player will in turn raise the performance of the team.


“Each player at each position needs to get better for the team to get better,” he said. “I have an insight on how it’s going to be, how it plays out. And for sure, it could be different than it is in my head right now.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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