ORONO, Maine — Kevin McAvoy wasted no time making his impact felt on the University of Maine baseball team.
He burst onto the Division I scene in 2006, racking up 10 home runs and 64 runs batted while leading coach Steve Trimper’s Black Bears to an America East championship and a spot in the NCAA Chapel Hill (N.C.) Regional.
McAvoy was named to the All-America East first team, was chosen the league rookie of the year and was honored as a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American.
“Mac had a phenomenal freshman year,” Trimper said. “He’s a great hitter, but he had a lot of people around him that led to him hitting in that spot in the lineup. That helped him have a lot of success.”
Things haven’t come quite as easily after posting one of the top seasons in UMaine history, but the former Brewer High School star continues to be a key contributor for the Bears.
McAvoy is having an outstanding senior season. The Bears’ co-captain takes a .414 batting average, a team-high five homers, and 28 RBIs into this weekend’s America East series against longtime rival Vermont at Mahaney Diamond.
McAvoy leads the league in doubles (13) and is third in hits (48), on-base percentage (.496) and slugging percentage (.655).
“You just go into every game with an open mind,” said McAvoy, who recently had a career-best, 19-game hitting streak cut short by a hamstring problem.
“It [statistics] kind of can get in your head at times,” he said. “I kind of leave it at the side and go into every game looking at situations, looking to get hits when I can and drive the ball when there are people on.”
The soft-spoken McAvoy prefers to let his bat and his play in right field do the talking. When evaluating his career, he is quick to credit others with aiding his development.
This season, a potent lineup that includes Nos. 3-5 hitters Billy Cather, Ian Leisenheimer and Myckie Lugbauer has set the table for McAvoy.
“It’s nice to be in the position where you have a runner on third base or second base and you’re up there free-swinging and trying to put the ball through the infield and you get a couple RBIs. It makes you look good, but it’s because of them,” McAvoy said.
McAvoy explained that prior to UMaine, it was his Brewer High coaches who gave him a strong baseball foundation.
“I was blessed with great coaches back in high school,” McAvoy said. “David Morris and Dana Corey, they both were great baseball players in their time. Dana talked to me about what to expect, how to succeed. I kind of kept those in the back of my mind.”
McAvoy also appreciates the support of his parents, Steven and Bertha, and older sister Carolyn, who played softball at Husson University.
Over four seasons, McAvoy has learned to make adjustments, both physically and psychologically.
McAvoy’s reputation as a hitter was well-known going into his sophomore season. Pitchers stopped throwing as many fastballs and were motivated to get him out.
He finished the season at .271 with four homers and 30 RBIs.
“You come in and have a year like that [’06], everybody wants to strike you out, everybody wants to get you out,” McAvoy said. “It made me work on offspeed [pitches], taking pitches that I normally would have swung at.”
He played third base during his superb freshman campaign, moved to shortstop in 2007, then last year made the move to the outfield. McAvoy had never played in the outfield and it took him a while to learn the intricacies of the position.
During his first two seasons, McAvoy received important guidance from teammate and Brewer native Joel Barrett, who helped him keep things in perspective.
“Joel definitely helped me with the transition [to college] and was the catalyst for what I’ve become now as a captain my senior year,” McAvoy said.
Last spring McAvoy finished at .301 (2 HR, 25 RBIs). Plagued by nagging hamstring problems, consistency was fleeting.
Trimper continued to see growth stemming from McAvoy’s 2007 season playing in the Cape Cod League.
“I saw him start to change his game,” Trimper said. “He started to learn the game and coach the game to himself to where he knew how to work on his weaknesses more than his strengths.”
McAvoy has taken great pride in serving as one of the Bears’ five captains. His style is to lead by example.
“The people that we used to look up to are now us and we’ve got to set the standards,” McAvoy said. “We want to be on top, we want to win, we want to work hard. If that rubs off on the guys, that’s the best thing that we can teach them for their later success in their careers.”
Trimper said McAvoy sends the right message to younger players through his work ethic.
“He plays the game one pitch, one inning at a time, and he plays the game extremely hard,” Trimper. “He’s one of the hardest workers.”
McAvoy, who is majoring in kinesiology and health fitness, hopes to get an opportunity to play professional baseball. Until that day arrives, his motivation is to help UMaine get back to the NCAA tournament.
“I do now have a somewhat kind of a proud aura around me of continuing the Maine baseball success,” McAvoy said. “Everything’s been going well so far and hopefully we finish out strong.”