GORHAM — Ed Flaherty wanted to keep this day the same as any other. So he stuck to his pregame routine, which including watering the infield dirt after the teams took infield practice.

But Wednesday was not like any other day. It was a milestone day for Flaherty, in his 33rd season as head coach of the University of Southern Maine baseball team.

The Huskies hit four home runs – three in the fourth inning – and defeated Bates 10-3 for the 1,000th win of his legendary coaching career. As Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” played over the speakers at the field that bears Flaherty’s name, his players doused him with water and cheered loudly.

“It’s not just me,” Flaherty told his players as they gathered afterward, “but I’ll take the grand.”

Flaherty became the 11th coach in NCAA Division III baseball history to win 1,000 games. His record now stands at 1,000-443-4 – a winning percentage of .691.

His first win at USM was March 30, 1986 – a 14-7 decision over Norfolk State. The Huskies have never finished below .500 under Flaherty. In fact, he’s only had four seasons with a winning percentage under .600. His teams have twice won the NCAA Division III championship (1991, 1997) and have made eight appearances in the Division III College World Series.

“All I know is it takes a lot of hard work and dedication for many years with a whole bunch of different kids,” said sophomore left fielder Dylan Hapworth. “I can’t imagine winning 1,000 games.”

The win was USM’s eighth in a row, improving the Huskies to 26-8 as the playoffs approach. Bates dropped to 14-16.

Hapworth, from Winslow, hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning. Freshman third baseman Sam Troiano of South Portland hit two home runs, including a three-run shot in the fourth. Junior outfielder Zach Quintal, of Eliot and Marshwood High, also hit a home run in the fourth. USM led 7-0 after the six-run inning.

“Ed is a first-class coach and a Hall of Fame coach,” said Jon Martin, the Bates coach. “He does a great job. Clearly he’s a 1,000-win coach for a reason.”

Vinnie Degifico played on Flaherty’s first team and has been an assistant to him for the last 26 years. His son, Anthony, is a sophomore on the Huskies.

“Pretty special,” said Degifico. “I played in his first win, my son played in his 1,000th. That’s unique.”

So too, said Degifico, is Flaherty.

“I think leadership is one of the key factors with him,” said Degifico. “He’s able to get his players, when they’re on the field, to play the way he needs them to play to win the game.”

Hapworth said it’s pretty simple: “Honestly, he gets the most out of you. You want to perform so well for him because I know he’s putting in more work than I am.”

Troiano, who hit two home runs in a game for the first time Wednesday, is grateful that he’s had the opportunity to play as a freshman for Flaherty.

“He’s not demanding,” said Troiano, “but he wants everyone to succeed.”

And, said Degifico, not just on the field. “It’s a lot of life lessons with him,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of kids go on to do great things. The way he is with the kids, and the way he trains them, it’s for life.”

Flaherty’s wife, Debbie, and one of his sons, Regan, were on hand to see the milestone. Regan, who played college ball at Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky, said “no one builds a program better” than his father.

Flaherty seemed to take it all in stride. He spoke about the assistant coaches he’s had, the players he’s coached, and the support he’s had from the administration at USM. Without those, he said, none of this is possible.

“You feel good, you feel like you’ve accomplished something in life,” said Flaherty. “I hope most of (his players) have enjoyed their experience because winning is a great thing. And we’ve been able to do that.”

Yes they have. One thousand times.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH


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