ORONO, Maine — Kyle Stilphen has played sports all his life, including football.
Yet he never missed a game because of injury.
That all changed March 3 in Winter Haven, Fla., when the University of Maine third baseman took a bad-hop grounder in the face.
“I think this was just a freak one [hop]. I had it lined up, it was on my backhand, and it just kicked back into my face,” Stilphen said.
“I broke my nose and the orbital bone right under my [left] eye.”
Stilphen is expected to return to action this weekend when the Black Bears play a four-game series against Wagner College at Staten Island, N.Y. It opens with today’s 1 p.m. game.
That news is tempered by the loss for the season of sophomore righthander Jimmy Cox of Bangor.
Cox felt a pop in his pitching elbow during his Feb. 21 season debut in Las Vegas. The result is an injury that will require Tommy John reconstructive surgery.
“He’s on the shelf,” said UMaine head coach Steve Trimper. “At this point, he pretty much needs to get his arm fixed and he’ll be back next year.”
Stilphen, a promising freshman from Pittston, has recovered physically from his injuries. He’ll have to take a few extra precautions, including wearing sunglasses while playing in the field and a full-face cage on his batting helmet.
“It’s all right, I’m getting used to it a little bit,” Stilphen said. “It’s exciting to get back out there.”
He began taking some swings in the batting cage last week and was cleared to begin playing in the field on Tuesday.
Trimper is thrilled to have Stilphen available, as the Bears’ only backup infielder in recent weeks was outfielder Kevin McAvoy of Brewer.
“He’s a great player. He adds more of an offensive presence to our lineup, particularly being a freshman,” Trimper said of Stilphen.
“He gives us another offensive capability to get somebody out there and it makes the lineup a little bit stronger,” he added.
Stilphen said he hasn’t suffered any adverse psychological effects from the injury as far as it potentially affecting his fielding.
UMaine pitching update
On the pitching front, junior righthander Joe Miller may get some work this weekend after sitting out the Sacred Heart series with a sore forearm.
Miller (1-2 record, 8.38 earned run average) is expected to see relief duty for the time being.
UMaine sophomore Matt Jebb continues to lead the pitching staff.
The big righthander is off to a 3-0 start with a 3.00 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 30 innings.
Jebb’s three wins have already surpassed his total from 2008, when he was 2-5 with a 4.57 ERA.