CLICK HERE to read original article, written by Staff Writer Mike Whaley
STANDISH, Maine — It was the fall of his junior year when Dover's Jared Gagne found himself at a baseball crossroads.
He had played in 64 games in his first two seasons for the St. Joseph's College (Maine) team as a sometimes starter in the outfield, batting .300 (30 for 100) with 34 runs.
He felt that in his junior year he would crack the starting lineup on a full-time basis.
But he had a bad fall season. The team briefly experimented with him as a pitcher. Gagne met with coach Will Sanborn at the end of the season and was told he wasn't going to play much in the outfield come spring.
"I knew I had been working hard from my freshman to sophomore year," said Gagne, now a senior right fielder who throws and bats left. "I was kind of hoping to hear better things."
Disappointed? Yes. Giving up? Not a chance.
"I used that as motivation. I have to work even harder. This isn't going to come easy. Everything just kind of clicked my junior year. It came together."
In a big way.
Gagne put more focus on the weight room. He got stronger and faster, so that by the time the spring season rolled around, coach Sanborn was taking notice.
"I felt a little stronger," said Gagne, a finance and marketing major. "I felt like I was hitting the ball harder."
Gagne hurt his back on the eve of a Florida trip, missing all but the last game. But he went 3 for 4 in that game.
"Coach started playing me a little bit more and a little bit more," he said.
Gagne eventually was slotted as the lead-off or No. 2 hitter. He ended up hitting .402, which not only led the team but the entire Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC). He scored 30 runs, stole 25 bases and drove in 25 runs.
St. Joe's went 29-13 overall, losing in the conference championship to Suffolk, 6-5.
"It was a roller coaster," admitted Gagne, who was named All-GNAC First Team.
Fast forward to this season and, as a senior, Gagne hasn't skipped a beat. In fact, with a preseason injury (fractured wrist) to Rochester's Ben Gravel, who was expected to hit in the middle of the lineup, St. Joe's had to reconstruct its batting order. Gagne was moved to third.
"I've never hit third in my life," he said. "I've never been a power hitter. There was a little bit of a change, but not too much."
Gagne, who stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 170 pounds, has delivered. He leads the conference with a .452 batting average (52 for 115). He is also tops in the GNAC in runs (42), triples (6), on-base percentage (.504) and tied for the lead in hits (52) with teammate Joey Murphy. He is second to Murphy in stolen bases with 29.
St. Joe's is 27-8, winning its last seven games in a row. In Friday's doubleheader sweep of Colby-Sawyer College, Gagne went 6 for 8 in the two games with two runs, two RBIs and two stolen bases. He also belted his first home run of the season.
The Monks are 12-2 in the conference, just behind Suffolk (13-1), who they host next Saturday in a doubleheader. Those two games will, in all likelihood, decide the regular-season conference champions and the top seed in the conference playoffs, which kick off on April 30.
Gagne has been at the forefront of that success, performing above expectations.
"I'll tell you what," said coach Sanborn. "I wouldn't have listed him as a top, top guy. He was a guy we had interest in and recruited certainly. He's just worked tremendously hard and just developed. He just continues to get better and better."
Gagne was a Division I All-State centerfielder for Dover High. He played center and right field during the summer months for the Dover Post 8 Legion team, including the 2014 state championship squad.
"He was a speed guy," Sanborn said. "I always like guys who can run."
Gagne made an immediate impression in the fall of his freshman year, earning some playing time. He batted .250.
He followed that up with a .339 average during his sophomore year — again in a supporting role.
"But it really took him a couple years in the weight room to really fully blossom," Sanborn said. "He just took that part of his development do seriously. He's a super, super strong kid."
Gravel is returning from his injury, so Gagne has returned to second in the batting order.
"Everyone is coming together and doing their part," he said. "We have very solid pitching. We play solid defense. Our lineup is finally starting to come around. As long as we keep doing what we're doing, we should have a successful postseason."
With Jared Gagne setting the lineup's pace, the Monks are certain to be a tough out.
NOTES: The Monks roster has a decided Seacoast taste to it. Along with Gagne, also on the team are Dover's Tim Verrill, Spaulding's Gravel, Drew Healey and Anthony DiPrizio, and Marshwood's Noah McDaniel.