ORONO, Maine — When freshman reliever Cody Laweryson took the mound for the University of Maine against the University of Miami on March 14 in Coral Gables, Florida, there were 1,815 more people in the stands (2,327) than live in his hometown of Moscow (512).
“We mess with him about being from a small town. But he can play some ball, for sure,” said UMaine junior catcher Jon Bennett.
The tall right-hander wasn’t fazed by the atmosphere, tossing 1 2/3 innings of no-hit, shutout ball with three strikeouts.
“I had never pitched in an atmosphere like that before,” said the former three-sport standout at Class D Upper Kennebec Valley High in Bingham (enrollment 70). “The fans got into it. They try to get into your head.”
The 6-foot-3 Laweryson has been a pleasant surprise for the Black Bears as they prepare to host Hartford in a three-game America East set at Mahaney Diamond on Saturday and Sunday. The games start at 1 p.m. both days.
He takes a sparkling 1.65 earned run average into the series with 21 strikeouts and only four walks in 16 1/3 innings. Opponents are hitting .190 against him.
Laweryson often comes on with men on base in key situations.
“He has been a diamond in the rough,” said UMaine interim head coach Nick Derba. “He might be our most valuable guy out of the bullpen. He’s tough as nails and he throws strikes.
“He understands the value of making quality pitches and attacking hitters,” he added.
“He is the most consistent freshman I’ve ever seen,” said senior closer Jeff Gelinas of Saco. “The fact he has been put into so many big situations and has consistently done his thing to help us out of jams has been impressive.”
“He has been huge for us,” said sophomore shortstop Jeremy Pena. “I’ve never seen a kid pitch with so much heart. He gives his all every day.”
“That’s what I tried to do in high school: Attack hitters. I try to get ahead in the count early and make them get themselves out,” said Laweryson. “I rely on my defense to make plays and they’ve done a great job.”
Laweryson doesn’t have an overpowering fastball but he locates it well and it has some sink to it. He also has a steadily-improving slider and is working on his changeup. He would like to add a two-seam fastball.
“I’m really trying to get better command of my secondary pitches: My slider and changeup. I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job with my slider. I’ve gotten some strikeouts and weak contact with it. I didn’t use my changeup much in high school,” he said.
“He throws a heavy ball. There’s a lot of downward angle to it and you couldn’t ask for a better arm slot,” said Bennett. “When you have someone throwing a ball like that at 90 miles an hour, it’s hard to hit. And his slider is very good. He throws it from the same arm slot so it’s hard to pick it up.”
Laweryson had to adapt to being a reliever after being a starter in high school.
“But I’ve gotten used to the role and I kind of like it now,” said Laweryson. “I had never come into a game in tough situations. [Derba] had been putting me in some tough situations and I’ve done my best to pitch out of them.”
His unflappable nature has been a valuable asset.
“I try to never get too high or too low on the mound,” explained Laweryson, who didn’t expect to see as much action this season. He said he was stunned to receive a partial scholarship offer from UMaine after an August showcase in Orono before his senior year.
“I was really surprised. I didn’t think they were looking at me at all. I made my decision within a few days. I had always wanted to play here,” he said.