Progress remains on a steady climb for Winthrop High School softball coach Chuck Gurney who took over the program four years ago, assigned with the task of rebuilding.

Since missing the playoffs his first year, Gurney and his Ramblers has ascended to the top echelon of Mountain Valley conference and Class C softball. After a slow start this season, the Ramblers reeled off 11 straight wins and earned a bye in the first round of the Class C South tournament. They eventually lost to unbeaten Class C state champion Madison, finishing the season at 13-5.

For his effort, Gurney has been selected as the Kennebec Journal Softball Coach of the Year.

Through all his recent success, Gurney has remained consistent as a coach and mentor. He admits that winning brings the fans out and he’s glad to see how community involvement has increased over the past couple of year,

“The wins are great,” he said. “But my progress personally is what my kids do after high school. We stress to them this is just a game.”

Gurney mentioned that his star pitcher, Layne Audet, was chosen by this year’s seniors to lead them into the graduation ceremony, and that this speaks as much to her character as her accomplishments in the circle.

“He’s helped me so much,” Audet said. “He tells me every day he’s proud of me.”

Gurney cites the help he’s received from many parents, including Johannah Oberg, Jeff Perkins and assistant coach Dave Audet in getting the program off the ground. He said the addition of basketball coach Joe Burnham to the middle school softball program is another boon to the program.

“We’re trying to build a tradition,” he said. “Softball was kind of a forgotten sport.”

Next season, the Ramblers look ready for a run at the title against Madison — the gold standard in the MVC — as well as many of the other tough teams. They return every starter including a group of seniors who have played together since Tee-ball.

“Ever since Coach Gurney has been here we’ve been improving a lot,” junior Kate Perkins said this season. “He keep us engaged and he’s always encouraging us.”

Gurney is coaching the Mine Illusion this summer, working his schedule around his job at Bath Iron Works. The team is made of of central Maine players, including five from his own team, and play in some out-of-state tournaments. His goal is to expose these players to the best competition possible, while hoping they learn some life lessons along the way.

The Ramblers lost a valuable player and leader when Kayleigh Oberg graduated last year, and since their were no seniors on this year’s team, Gurney wondered who would fill the void. He didn’t force the issue.

“I let them handle it on their own”,” he said. “They turned into the leaders I knew they would.”

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