ORONO, Maine — Ben Wessel suffered a devastating injury midway through his senior season at Scarborough High School.
But rather than dwell on not being able to pitch any more this spring, he continued to contribute with his bat and his leadership while helping coach Mike Coutts’ Red Storm to the Western Maine Class A baseball championship.
It was an effort that now has earned him an additional title — Mr. Baseball.
Wessel, a pitcher and outfielder, was named Friday as the 21st recipient of the Dr. John W. Winkin Award, presented annually by the Maine Baseball Coaches Association to the state’s outstanding senior high school baseball player.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” said Wessel, who will continue his baseball career at the University of Rhode Island next year. “All the finalists had a great season, and it’s rewarding to have all the hard work pay off and a privilege to be able to receive this award.”
Wessel received the award from Winkin, the former Colby College, University of Maine and Husson University baseball coach, just before the opening pitch of the Maine Senior High School Baseball All-Star Game played at Mahaney Diamond on the University of Maine campus.
“I’d never met him but I’ve definitely heard about him,” said Wessel of his introduction to Winkin at home plate. “He’s a legend, so it was a great experience to meet him.”
Wessel was 6-0 with a 0.62 earned run average on the mound this spring until suffering a torn ulnar collateral ligament injury in his pitching arm that will require Tommy John surgery in July.
After yielding three runs in his first start of the spring, Wessel pitched five consecutive shutouts before being sidelined. He allowed just 16 hits in 34 innings while striking out 45 batters, walking 11 and holding opponents to a .137 batting average.
“That’s my future in playing baseball next year, [being able] to pitch,” said Wessel. “I was successful this year [until getting hurt] and it was hard because I kind of felt like I let the team down a bit, but I was able to come back with my bat and help the team that way.”
Wessel missed two games while his injury was being assessed but returned to the middle of the lineup to lead Scarborough to a 17-3 record and its first regional championship since winning the 1986 Class B state title.
“That’s just a credit to him and who he is as a person and how he’s matured over the years,” said Coutts. “I think he knew what the team wanted to accomplish this year and he wanted to be part of what we were doing, which is a great credit to him.”
Wessel led Western Maine Class A batters in seven offensive categories during the regular season — batting average (.486), slugging percentage (.943), on-base percentage (.600), RBIs (21), triples (four), home runs (two) and total bases (33).
“When he got hurt with his elbow, I was more concerned about him not being able to hit than not being able to pitch because he left a big void in our lineup, so it was good to get him back,” said Coutts.
Wessel emerged from a field of eight finalists to become the second Scarborough player to win the Winkin Award, following Chris Bernard in 2009.
Other finalists were Max Andrews of John Bapst of Bangor, Sam Dexter of Messalonskee of Oakland, Luke Fernandes of Marshwood of South Berwick, Ben Holmes of Dirigo of Dixfield, Corbin Hyde of Lewiston, Dustin Sawtelle of Lee Academy and J.T. Whitten of Waterville.