MADISON — He paces. He kicks buckets. He has been known to use colorful language on occasion and rip his hat off his head just to heave it into the dirt at his feet.

Madison softball coach Chris LeBlanc isn’t for everybody. His own players use words like “intimidating,” “difficult” and “angry” to describe the skipper who has the Bulldogs in their fourth state championship game in five years Saturday.

Madison (19-0) meets Narraguagus (18-1) for the Class C title at 12:30 p.m. at St. Joseph’s College.

“I was 100 percent scared of him, I’m not going to lie,” senior second baseman Marah Hall said of her first impression of LeBlanc. “I was pretty scared of him. I played for him in 10U, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, who is this guy?'”

Those on the outside can probably understand where Hall comes from. Watch any Madison game and chances are you’ll know exactly how LeBlanc feels at any given moment. He’s not one for whispering sugar-coated criticism politely, instead often calling out players by name — loudly — for mistakes they’ve made or adjustments which are needed.

Last season as a junior, Hall made the transition to second base and it was not always a smooth one. There were errors, blown coverages on bunt defenses and times when a split-second decision turned out poorly. Yet Hall still has nothing but good things to say about LeBlanc, who began coaching Madison in 2014 after nearly a decade as an assistant coach. That spring, the Bulldogs beat Calais for the state championship.

“He’s very empowering and kind. He uplifts people,” Hall said. “He might not always sound like it, and sometimes he yells and all that, but he’s truly there to help better his players. He’s there for them.”

Fellow senior Ashley Emery, an all-Mountain Valley Conference Player in each of the last two seasons, has been in LeBlanc’s doghouse.

Madison softball coach Chris LeBlanc confers with Kathryn Worthen during the Class C South championship game against Sacopee Valley on Tuesday in Standish. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

“I remember my freshman year in the regional (final) game, I messed up in a big situation on a bunt,” Emery said. “He was so mad at me that it really ended up making me mad. Finally, after a couple of days, I had to let it go. We had just moved on.”

“There have definitely been players who don’t know his personality, who haven’t grown up around him, so you just have to tell them to shake it off,” senior third baseman Whitney Bess added. “It’s perception with him. It’s going to be hard, but you can’t let it get in your head.”

LeBlanc is keenly aware of the perception, and he knows there are whispers about his style. Parents probably raise eyebrows on occasion, and those who don’t know him personally might be of the opinion that he values winning above all else.

That’s only partly true.

“The ultimate goal is to win the state championship. Why am I going to practice to lose?” LeBlanc said Thursday afternoon in his office at the high school, where he is also the athletic administrator. “I feel that I’m very transparent. I believe that my kids know my expectations, and I think they want that from me. I’ve seen coaches in the past that the kids didn’t know what the coaches want from them. I would hope they would know exactly what my goals are for them as individuals, what the team goals are, and we’re going to set forth to accomplish them.”

After coaching the Madison football team from 2000-2003, LeBlanc began to understand that worrying about what others thought of him was wasted energy. The only thing he’s worried about is his players and what puts them in the best position to succeed as individuals and as a team.

Madison softball coach Chris LeBlanc rubs his head during a tense moment during the Class C South championship game against Sacopee Valley on Tuesday in Standish. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

“I’m a sensitive guy, believe it or not,” LeBlanc said of what people think of him. “It stings a little bit, but I also know that it doesn’t matter. We sit around on Sunday afternoons and question (New England Patriots head coach) Bill Belichick, so if I think that I’m going to go to a high school softball game and I’m not going to have people question me, then I’d be foolish. Any coach would be foolish to think that way.”

Sticking to his guns has worked. A 1990 Madison graduate, the 47-year-old LeBlanc is 99-4 in five seasons at the Madison helm with four regional crowns and state titles in 2014 and 2016. A victory Saturday would give him three state championships — the most for the Bulldogs in a five-year span since the school won four straight from 1994-1997.

In order to get to the final game of the season, the Bulldogs know that LeBlanc is going to coach a game on a cold afternoon in April exactly as he will coach one under the lights in a regional final in June.

“We even try to practice like we’re in a game all the time. In practice, he’s the same way,” Hall said. “You’re always in that atmosphere with him.”

“He’s a lot to handle during a game,” Bess added. “He gets really emotional because he really enjoys coaching the game and wants us to succeed.”

When you do succeed under LeBlanc, you’ll have no bigger friend for life than the coach whom you’ll routinely see in the coach’s box smashing open a bag of sunflower seeds in frustration or sending a middle infielder looking for a hole to crawl into behind the dugout.

Madison softball coach Chris LeBlanc directs a runner home during the Class C South championship game against Sacopee Valley on Tuesday in Standish Staff photo by Andy Molloy

“He loves the girls on the team. Each and every one of them are like his daughters,” Bess said. “He takes care of us. You just want to do the best you can for him.”

Near the conclusion of practice Thursday, a light throwing drill brought LeBlanc a moment of clarity.

“I looked at Ashley Emery and I said, ‘Ashley, we’ve only got three days left of this,’ and I started to tear up,” he said. “She did, too. I told her, ‘Hurry up and finish the drill, because I gotta go wipe my eyes right now.’

“Yes, we want to win, but we’re making memories here. The relationships we’re building here trump it all.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

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Twitter: @TBarrettGWC