PORTLAND—The powerhouse Deering baseball program has a new coach.

Mark Sutton, a one-time University of Maine standout and Texas Rangers farmhand, most recently a Rams’ assistant under Mike Coutts, will replace Coutts, who is now the coach at Scarborough High.

Sutton is eager to take on the challenge and feels his familiarity with the program will work to his advantage.

“I’ve been (at Deering) as an assistant and I know the players and their capabilities,” Sutton said. “It’s easier than stepping in cold.”

The Rams, Class A state champions seven times in 10 years under Mike D’Andrea and again in Coutts’ first season of 2009, lost three players to graduation, but will return seven seniors this spring and should once again be on the short list of title favorites.

“It’s been a great program with a winning tradition and my goal is to continue that,” Sutton said. “We have a strong nucleus of talented kids who know how to play. We want to make the playoffs and like any coach, my goal is to win a state championship. We also want to continue to emphasize what (Coutts) did, pitching, defense and situational hitting.”

Sutton played at Cony High in Augusta, then played second base (with Coutts at third) from 1979 through 1982 in Orono. He spent a couple years with the Rangers’ minor league system, making it as high as Double A ball. Since his playing career ended, Sutton, a Portland resident, spent many years giving clinics, before joining his former teammate as a coach at Deering for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Deering athletic director Bill LeRoy is very excited about Sutton’s promotion.

“We’re very fortunate that (Mark) was in place,” LeRoy said. “He’s an outstanding coach and a quality person. He’ll transition the team as smoothly as possible. The kids know him and respect him. We had a few candidates, but nobody who had his quality and experience.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]

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