Winthrop’s Jackson Ladd will be an integral part of the success of this year’s team. Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham

WINTHROP — First-year Winthrop baseball coach Dave Theriault laughed when he was asked if he considered dropping leadoff hitter Jackson Ladd from his customary spot to the middle of the batting order when he took over for long-time Ramblers coach Marc Fortin this year.

“I wanted to clone him,” Theriault said. “If I had nine Jackson Ladds, I tell ya, life would be a dream.”

Winthrop’s Jackson Ladd will be an integral part of the success of this year’s team. Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham

“He’s got the power of a 3-4 guy, but he’s just too valuable (hitting leadoff),” Theriault added. “I want to make sure that nobody has more at-bats than he does. He’s leadoff, all the way.”

A four-year starter, Ladd didn’t immediately take a shine to the top spot in the lineup.

“My freshman year, I hated it,” he said. “Keep me away from it. Put me anywhere else. But Coach Fortin plugged me in the leadoff spot after going 0-for-12 in the preseason and it’s been a beauty ever since.”

Ladd is a complete player for the Ramblers, able to change games with his bat, legs and glove. After nearly four years being the Ramblers’ catalyst, he relishes the opportunity to make opposing pitchers feel uncomfortable early and, he hopes, often.

“I want to have the pitcher feel from the very get-go he’s under pressure,” he said. “I want to put him under fire as soon as I can, put stress on him, get a run that first inning, get something going.”

“Once I get on, I’m trying to boogie my way around and get home,” Ladd said.

If Ladd can get in the opposing pitcher’s head, his impact on his own team’s psyche can be considerable, too.

“When he gets on base, we think there’s a very good chance that we’re going to score at least one run and probably some more,” Theriault said.

“He sets the table,” Theriault added. “He’s the leader in every way conceivable.”

A senior, Ladd is a two-year captain on the baseball team and has also served as captain of the state championship basketball and the MVC champion golf team.

It’s a title he takes seriously, said Theriault, who knows he can count on Ladd to help out the coaching staff if it needs help during drills or picking up after a game.

“He’s not looking for the perks of being a captain,” Theriault said. “He looks at it as his responsibility to bring the rest of the team up, and it’s not about him. It’s about developing and encouraging everyone around him.”

Theriault acknowledges he hit the coaching jackpot having a player with the skill, talent and passion for the game that Ladd has.

“He’s very fast. He’s very intelligent. He understands the game very well,” Theriault said. “The biggest thing about him is just the passion that he has. He’s one of the few players that I have where baseball is number one. He absolutely loves it.”

“I’ve always loved how you have a new chance every pitch. It’s a fresh start. It’s a new beginning,” Ladd said. “Is it hard to put away the last one? Yes. But you get a new opportunity every time to do something great.”

Some of Ladd’s greatest work comes when he’s patrolling Winthrop’s spacious center field.  Not only does he cover a lot of ground, but he’s an extra set of eyes for Theriault in setting the defense.

“I love it,”he said. “It’s easier for me because I can see everything else. I can position people based on what I see. I can tell my right fielder to move in, my left fielder to move out. I can help my shortstop and second baseman pinch a little bit. I can see everything I need to see to help put people in the right spot.”

If Ladd ever decides center field isn’t the right spot for him, Theriault said it would be easy to find another spot for him.

“I could put him anywhere,” Theriault said. “We have had him as an emergency shortstop, and he’s a lefty. When he was younger, he would catch, pitch, play first base. I never actually did it, but I told him, ‘I could put you at all nine positions in a nine-inning game. You could do it.'”

Ladd is starting to believe the Ramblers could do a lot of damage in the second half of the season and the playoffs. He said while the team is young, it has the talent and depth to challenge favorites such as Lisbon and Hall-Dale.

With a nucleus of Ladd, ace starter Ryan Baird, a returning-from-injury Cam Hachey and other members of the gold ball-winning basketball team, the Ramblers may be late bloomers, but could be dangerous in crunch time.

“We knew it was going to be a little bit of a grind this year, the beginning of the year was going to be very tough,” said Ladd, who plans to study business and play baseball at Thomas College next fall. “People were still shaking off the rust, but we’re moving in the right direction.”

“We’ve got guys who have been in the game at the highest-pressure situations on the biggest stage when the lights are the brightest,” Ladd added. “That’s going to translate to the moment when we need it to. When the pressure is building, when the tension’s high, we’ve got guys who have come through and cruised right through the pressure.”

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