ORONO — Matt Verrier first came to the University of Maine as an eighth-grader to attend the Black Bears’ summer baseball camp.
He returned to campus Friday night to pick the state’s highest award in his favorite sport — the 19th annual John W. Winkin Award symbolic of Maine’s Mr. Baseball for 2010.
Winkin, the longtime for-mer coach at Colby College, the University of Maine and Husson University, was on hand to make the presentation.
The award, and his participation in the Larry Mahaney East-West Senior Classic that followed, marked the climax to a whirlwind few weeks for the catcher from Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in South Paris.
First he was named Maine’s 2010 Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year. Then he led the Vikings to their first Class A state championship since 2005, capping off a 19-2 season with a 1-0 victory over Biddeford in last Saturday’s state final.
“I’ve just been working hard like every other kid in the state of Maine,” said Verrier. “Winning a state championship and getting all of these awards is a dream come true for me.
“I put the time in, and the hard work paid off.”
A four-year starter for coach Shane Slicer’s club, Verrier batted .460 this spring with two home runs, 28 RBIs, 17 walks — many of them inten-tional — and just four strikeouts.
He also was a strong-armed defensive presence behind the plate that limited opponents’ ability to steal bases.
And Verrier isn’t done visiting the University of Maine — he’ll join the Black Bear baseball program as a scholarship player this fall.
“When we go out recruiting we look for five tools: hit, hit with power, run, throw and field,” said Maine coach Steve Trimper. “You look at Verrier and he can hit, he can show power at times, he can certainly field, he can throw, and he’s actually a pretty darned good runner.”
And with two senior catchers graduating from the program this spring in Joe Mecurio and Myckie Lugbauer, Verrier is in line to get considerable playing time upon his arrival at Maine.
“I think that he has the tools to be a very good college baseball player,” said Trimper, “but we have him slated to be a right-away player. With Mecurio graduated and Lugbauer graduated, [Tyler] Patzalek’s our only other catcher right now along with Matt, so we’re really looking at those two guys to split time and DH, and Patzalek’s going to play a lot of third base for us, too, so we can get him in the lineup when Matt’s catching.
Verrier was one of four finalists for Mr. Baseball honors, along with Eric White of Brewer, Lincoln Sanborn of Bonny Eagle of Standish and Ryan Leach of Hall-Dale of Farmingdale.
White led Brewer to a 14-5 record and a berth in the Eastern Maine Class A championship game, where the Witches fell to Verrier and Oxford Hills. The third-baseman batted .563 with one home run, eight doubles, four triples and 12 RBIs for coach Dana Corey’s squad, while also walking 14 times and striking out just twice.
Like Verrier, White will join the University of Maine baseball program this fall.
“It’s such an honor to be one of the finalists because coach Winkin has done so much for baseball in the state,” said White. “And I’m happy for Matt, too, because he deserved this award.”
Sanborn, a pitcher-infielder, received the Edson Hadlock Award this spring as the most valuable pitcher in the Southern Maine Activities Association, or Western Maine Class A. Sanborn went 6-0 with one save and a 1.41 ERA for Bonny Eagle during the regular season.
He struck out 49 batters over 44 2/3 innings and pitched six complete games for the Scots, who finished with a 10-7 record. Sanborn also batted .260 with five doubles for coach Marc Sawyer’s club.
Sanborn, the son of Saint Joseph’s College coach Will Sanborn, will continue his baseball career at St. John’s University in New York, though he didn’t play in Friday’s all-star game due to injury.
Leach, the only non-Class A finalist, batted .639 this spring while leading Hall-Dale to an 8-6 record in Western Maine Class C. Leach had six doubles, three triples, three home runs and 14 RBIs while drawing 20 walks and striking out just four times in 58 plate appearances. Leach, an infielder, also pitched for Hall-Dale, compiling a 1-2 record with a 3.20 earned run average with 32 strikeouts and 18 hits allowed in 19 2/3 innings.
Leach will play baseball at Division II Franklin Pierce College.