The University of Maine baseball team will turn to a former recruiting target with Pine Tree State roots to provide additional experience for its pitching staff.
Trevor LaBonte, a 6-foot-6, 220-pound right-hander from York who pitched for three seasons at the University of Maryland, will join the Black Bears in the aftermath of the team’s two top hurlers from the 2021 season signing professional contracts.
LaBonte, a graduate transfer, entered the NCAA’s transfer portal this spring after seeing limited duty for the Terrapins, a Big 10 Conference program that finished 36-18 and qualified for the NCAA Division I tournament.
“I felt like I needed a change of scenery,” LaBonte said. “We had a really good year at Maryland this year as a team but I didn’t really pitch a ton so I just felt like maybe going somewhere where I could carve out a bigger role would be really fun to do in my last year.”
The transfer portal quickly connected LaBonte with UMaine baseball head coach Nick Derba, who originally recruited the 2017 York High School graduate during his prep year in 2017-18 at Bridgton Academy.
“We always kept track of him and watched what he was doing,” Derba said. “I saw he wasn’t pitching a lot toward the middle of the year, and then using the transfer portal when his name popped up we got in touch with him right away.”
He will join the team this fall while he pursues a master’s degree in business administration. He will soon earn his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Maryland after completing one online class.
LaBonte’s addition to the pitching staff could help offset the losses of Black Bears Nick Sinacola and Alex McKenney to the professional ranks. Sinacola was a seventh-round draft pick of the San Francisco Giants earlier this month while McKenney — who was briefly a teammate of LaBonte in Sanford this summer — signed a free-agent contract with the Philadelphia Phillies organization.
LaBonte appeared in 15 games with 12 starts in 64 2/3 innings as a freshman at Maryland in 2019 and limited opponents to a .235 batting average. His first college start came against the University of Maine when he allowed one earned run on three hits with three strikeouts over five innings.
He pitched in relief in four games during the abbreviated 2020 season, then made just one relief appearance this spring.
“We were really talented this year and I just wasn’t in the mix,” he said.
LaBonte has been back in Maine this summer with the Sanford Mainers of the New England Collegiate Baseball League. He has pitched in 13 games, all but once in relief, with a 4-1 record, one save and a 2.07 ERA in 26 innings.
Derba isn’t sure how the Black Bears will use LaBonte during the coming season, which will begin with a 14-game fall intrasquad schedule, but he expects the veteran to be a contributing factor as UMaine seeks to contend for the America East championship next spring.
“Trevor brings experience in every aspect of pitching and he has ability,” Derba said. “He has a good fastball, he throws a lot of strikes. I know he can get outs.”
LaBonte has two years of college baseball eligibility remaining but anticipates playing just one season at UMaine while attending graduate school.
“Right now I’m just planning to play for one year and re-evaluate after that,” he said. “The plan is one year.”
LaBonte has plenty of family connections to the Orono campus. His parents and older sister are all UMaine alumni, with his dad Rich LaBonte a quarterback for the Black Bears’ football team from 1981 to 1984 and older sister Addie a member of the women’s soccer team from 2012 to 2015.
LaBonte will join younger sister Delaney, now a rising sophomore on UMaine’s soccer team, on campus this fall.
“That’s a lot of Black Bears,” he said.