ORONO, Maine — University of Maine senior right-hander Justin Courtney, the ace of the starting rotation, will miss the rest of the season and will undergo Tommy John surgery on his right arm within the next two weeks.
Even though he has made four starts this season, the former Bangor High School three-sport standout qualifies for a medical redshirt and will be able to pitch next season.
“I’ll be back in 10 to 12 months,” said Courtney, who chosen a Freshman All-American in 2015 when he was also selected to the America East All-Rookie team and to the All-AE second team. “I’m going to have the surgery as soon as possible. I will do the [rehabilitation] as prescribed and be back as soon as I can.”
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Courtney was off to an impressive start this season, posting a 1-1 record and allowing just 14 hits in 21 innings with 26 strikeouts and eight walks. Opponents were hitting .179 against him.
Courtney was a two-time America East Pitcher of the Week this spring for his outings against nationally ranked Miami of Florida and Ohio University in which he allowed five hits and two runs over 13 ⅔ innings with 17 strikeouts and four walks.
He hasn’t pitched since March 9.
“Originally, we thought it was a flexor [pronator] strain [in the elbow]. But once the flexor cleared up and it loosened up, that’s when the elbow started presenting some issues. My return to throwing wasn’t working so well,” explained Courtney. “The flexor strain was masking the underlying issue of the [ulnar collateral] ligament.”
Magnetic resonance imaging exams revealed the UCL tear.
Courtney said the surgeons he is hoping to perform the surgery are world-renowned Dr. James Andrews or Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
“It’s frustrating, for sure,” said Courtney. “It’s not how you would draw it up. But it’s not a career-ender, that’s for sure. Luckily, I was just under the limits for becoming a medical redshirt.
“My dream is to play professional baseball. That is still out there and I want to give myself the best chance that I can to do that. For me, that was taking the redshirt this year, get it fixed and be back next season.I’ll be back as strong if not stronger than before,” he added.
Courtney intends to be a graduate student next year.
“It’s manageable. [Head coach Nick Derba] and the whole staff are on my side. I’ll be fine in the end but it’s going to take a little bit longer than we originally thought,” said Courtney.
Courtney was 4-5 with a team-best 3.92 ERA last season and was 5-6 with a team-low 3.24 ERA his freshman season. He was plagued by arm trouble his sophomore year, appearing in just eight games.
“It’s good that we found out now but it stinks for him,” said Derba. “He has had a good career and I didn’t want him to go out on a bad note.
“It wasn’t one pitch. It was wear and tear. It happens. I know he’ll work hard to get back and, when he comes back, we’ll get him back into the rotation,” said Derba.
“Without Justin, we’re still really good. But having him around makes our bullpen much deeper. At the end of the day, I think we should be able to and we have to be able to win without a key arm,” Derba added. “That’s the mark of a really good team.”
“It’s always tough to lose your ace. He’s been our ace for three years. But we’re deep enough to carry through the playoff run,” said junior right-hander Nick Silva, one of the three starters in the rotation along with senior John Arel and redshirt senior Zach Winn.
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