SACO — Jeff Gelinas of Thornton Academy has put in the work during the offseason and is looking for a fast start to the season, both as a pitcher/hitter and for his team.

Gelinas was plagued by wildness last season but turned that around over the summer in the American Legion state tournament and the Northeast Regional at Old Orchard Beach.

“That’s when Maine got interested in him,” said Thornton Coach Ray Petit.

Gelinas, a 6-foot-3 right-hander, signed a letter of intent last fall to play baseball at Maine. With that out of the way, he’ll be able to concentrate on his pitching and not have to worry about selecting a college.

The high school baseball season starts Thursday, weather and field conditions permitting. Western Class A opens its season Friday, April 19 during school vacation. The Golden Trojans will be at Scarborough for a 10 a.m. game. The pitching matchup is likely to have two of the state’s best in Gelinas against Ben Greenberg of the Red Storm.

This preseason, Gelinas has issued only one walk in six innings.

“I have my core pitches down (fastball, curve and change-up),” said Gelinas. “I’m just trying to fine-tune them, particularly my change-up, which I learned a couple of years ago.”

Gelinas hopes the preparation sets him up well for a quick start.

For the most part, it doesn’t start to become baseball weather in Maine until late May and early June; thus it’s a challenge to get loose while pitching, hitting or fielding.

The weather sometimes offers some pleasant surprises like Monday’s 60-degree day, but it’s usually long sleeves and turtleneck under the uniform for half the season.

“I’ve done a lot of conditioning inside. Hopefully that will help me get off to a good start. There’s not much you can do in Maine in preseason except work on the little things,” said Gelinas.

Gelinas hopes those little things turn into big things, as in Thornton reaching the playoffs despite losing pitching depth through graduation and with a lineup sprinkled with inexperience.

But with Gelinas on the mound, the Golden Trojans are competitive with any team in the league. A year ago, Thornton went 10-6 in the regular season.

Despite his wildness, Gelinas put up good numbers: He had a 2-2 record with a 1.46 ERA. He struck out 44 in 381/3 innings but his 25 walks hurt his chances of adding a few more wins.

Gelinas feels he has his control problems figured out. Petit said Gelinas went with a two-seam fastball last summer, which made him a more effective pitcher.

“He gets more movement on it,” said Petit.

“His four-seamer was a little flat at times.”

Gelinas was busy playing basketball for the Golden Trojans this past winter, and enjoying the midseason turnaround that had the seventh-seeded team upset second-ranked Deering in the quarterfinals, reaching the semifinals at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

Gelinas didn’t throw during the winter.

“His arm is livelier this spring,” said Petit.

Pitching in the Northeast Regionals last summer, Gelinas said he was throwing in the mid to high 80s. He hopes to touch 90 mph when the weather warms up.

“I’m looking to get into a nice pitching rhythm,” he said.

“We could be a good team this year. No one is looking for us to be contenders. I think we’re going to surprise a few teams. There is no dominant team as in past years. It’s wide open and we’re looking to be right up there.”

Gelinas will bat third and play first base when not on the mound.

“I want to get him up as much as possible,” said Petit as the reason for Gelinas batting third instead of fourth.

Between high school and Legion, Gelinas has played every position except center field.

He played third base at the start of last season but was moved to first to save his arm.

Growing up, Gelinas was accustomed to playing several positions in Little League

“I would play wherever they needed me,” said Gelinas. “I would pitch one game and catch the other. Sometimes I would do both in the same game.”

That can-do attitude has benefited the Golden Trojans over the past three seasons.

Recently, Gelinas agreed to play for the Old Orchard Beach Raging Tide in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.

Gelinas has a season of eligibility remaining in Legion ball, but said pitching for the Raging Tide will help get him ready faster for college baseball,

“I’m going to pitch against these kids in college so I might as well get ready for it,” he said. “I’m hoping to do well but even if I get hit, it will be a good learning experience.” 

Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

tchard@pressherald.com

Twitter: TomChardPPH