Bucksport head coach Josh Jackson watches the action during the first inning of a preseason high school baseball game against Winslow on April 12 at Bucksport High School. Jackson, who spent more than a decade as a Bucksport assistant and youth coach as well as head coach of the Trenton Acadians, is now head coach of a Bucksport team that looks to be one of Class C’s best in 2022. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

New head coach (but familiar face) leads Bucksport baseball into battle

BUCKSPORT — To Josh Jackson, this job means a little bit more.

Jackson, a 2003 graduate of Bucksport High School, has held countless jobs coaching baseball over the past decade or so. No matter the size of the field or the dugout, Jackson has been a staple on local diamonds in his hometown and all across the area.

With baseball his passion and Bucksport his hallowed ground, there are few days Jackson enjoys more than the ones he spends along the baselines at the high school team’s Elm Street field. Now, after years as an assistant, he finds himself as the team’s head coach following Mike Cowing’s retirement a year ago.

“The opportunity to do what I do here is a blessing,” Jackson said. “This is where I played baseball and where I grew up, and it’s been great to come back and coach for 10 years as an assistant under Coach Cowing and to now be the head coach.”

Jackson, then, has his dream job — and as his first season at the helm approaches, he also has a team that’s stacked from top to bottom.

Bucksport’s Gavyn Holyoke pitches during the first inning of a preseason high school baseball game against Winslow on April 12 at Bucksport High School. Bucksport claimed a 10-2 win over Winslow last Tuesday before beating Ellsworth 4-3 on Friday for another impressive preseason win. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

Last year, Bucksport had one of its best seasons in recent memory as it posted a 15-3 record. The second-ranked Golden Bucks won eight games via shutout and were on a 10-game winning streak before falling to Washington Academy in the regional semifinals.

That season-ending defeat was a tough one to take for Bucksport, which had shut out Washington Academy in both regular season matchups. It’s a memory that’s stuck with the Golden Bucks as they get set for their first year under a new head coach.

“That’s always been in the back of our heads,” senior captain Ty Giberson said of the semifinal defeat. “We have all these people returning from last year, and all of us, everyone is remembering it. It’s not happening again.”

Bucksport, as Giberson noted, has brought back quite a bit of last year’s squad for 2022. The Golden Bucks must replace a talented pitcher in Owen Gaudreau, their starting catcher in Logan Stanley and an important piece of the lineup in Jordan Malenfant, but the team will still have the bulk of its 2021 lineup and pitching staff.

One of those players is making what is perhaps an unexpected return: Jake Guty. The All-Penobscot Valley Conference first-teamer was listed as a senior last year but had a request for an additional year of eligibility granted by the Maine Principals’ Association last month.

Guty’s return means the Golden Bucks will have one of Class C’s most dominant pitchers. The Bucksport ace routinely struck out 12-plus batters last year, including an 18-strikeout no-hitter in the team’s regional quarterfinal win over George Stevens Academy. He was also a threat at the plate as he belted multiple home runs.

“I had to do an extra year because I had to get a couple credits, so I did the extra year, and then I had to do an appeal to the MPA if I wanted to get another season,” Guty said. “It was a long process. I didn’t get the OK until March, but after that, it was pretty much game on.”

Giberson, also an All-PVC first-teamer in 2021, also powered Bucksport on the mound and at the plate, as did third-teamer Gavyn Holyoke. Giberson had a four-hit performance May 22 against GSA, and Holyoke, who had a number of multi-hit games as a freshman, pitched the Golden Bucks to a 10-2 victory in Tuesday’s preseason game against Winslow.

Bucksport’s Brandon Elden slides into second base during the second inning of a preseason high school baseball game against Winslow on April 12 at Bucksport High School. Bucksport will open the regular season at home against Orono at 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 20. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

Elsewhere, Bucksport returns Brandon Elden, Tyler Hallett and Cam Rich to a lineup that plated six or more runs 10 times last season. Freshmen Bo Provencher and Jason Terrill should also be vital pieces in the field and at the plate for the Golden Bucks.

“We had some big losses — losing Logan behind the plate and a group of other core players is a big loss — but really, we have to be happy with what we have,” Jackson said. “Really, just to have the rotation that we have sets us up in a good spot this year.”

Cowing was a beloved head coach at Bucksport, but in Jackson, the Golden Bucks will still have a familiar figure calling the shots. In addition to manning the third-base line during Cowing’s tenure, Jackson coached many of the team’s current players at the youth level. He also coached some of them as head coach of the Trenton Acadians from 2019-21.

“He’s young, he’s smart, and he takes everything into consideration, so he brings a lot to the table,” Hallett said. “He knows how to interact with the team because he’s been with us for a long time, and he knows the right way to put us in the best position to win.”

Bucksport recorded an impressive win in Friday’s home preseason game against Ellsworth as it defeated the Eagles 4-3. The team was back at home Saturday for a round-robin play day with Central, Hampden Academy, Houlton, Mattanawcook Academy and Old Town.

The Golden Bucks will open the season at home against Orono at 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 20. A showdown with an Orono team that has won three of the past four Class C North titles will be an excellent measuring stick for the head coach of a Bucksport team with championship aspirations of its own.

“This year feels like real baseball again, and this is a good way to start it,” Jackson said. “It’s an easy transition when you [and the players] know each other and what your expectations are, and I feel like we’ve seen that already. I’m excited to see where it takes us.”

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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