Three Maine natives will be in the four-man starting rotation for the University of Maine baseball team’s season-opening, four-game series at Florida State University this weekend.
UMaine plays the Seminoles in Tallahassee, Florida, in a 4 p.m. single game on Friday, a noon doubleheader on Saturday and a 1 p.m. single game on Sunday.
Junior right-hander Cody Laweryson of Moscow and Upper Kennebec Valley High School in Bingham, Bangor sophomore Peter Kemble and Brewer redshirt sophomore Matt Pushard will each start a game against FSU while senior righty Nick Silva of Miami getting the other start.
UMaine is coming off a 20-34 season (12-12 in America East) and a 2-2 showing in the conference tournament held at Mahaney Diamond in Orono. UMaine recently was picked to finish fourth in the seven-team league in the preseason coaches poll.
Courtney on the mend
Meanwhile, ace right-hander Justin Courtney, a graduate student from Bangor, is progressing nicely after coming off Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow.
Courtney has been throwing 20-25 pitches to live hitters on Tuesdays and throwing on the weekends. He will continue to build up his pitch count and his endurance.
He is tentatively scheduled to start against the University of Alabama on March 19, and the hope is to have him near full strength for the second weekend of the the America East season.
“Getting him healthy and getting him back on track is a major priority,” UMaine head coach Nick Derba said. “His bounceback time is good. He is 10 months out from major surgery. He had pitched with some form of arm injury for years.”
Courtney said he has learned a lot going through the rehabilitation process and is cleaning up his delivery.
“I feel really good,” Courtney said. “It’s all going according to plan thus far. My expectation for this season is to come back and be better than ever.
“My mechanics are better than ever,” he said, adding that his slider has the potential to be the best of his career.
Courtney has a career record of 12-15 with a 3.65 earned run average. He has struck out 161 and walked 80 in 224 2/3 innings. He was a Freshman All-American and a second-team All-AE pick.
Courtney was 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA last season before developing season-ending arm trouble and undergoing reconstructive surgery.
Courtney and Derba said all four of this weekend’s starting pitchers have looked impressive in preseason workouts.
“They will throw strikes and come after the hitters. They aren’t going to be walking people or hitting batters,” said Courtney, who will accompany the team on the trip.
Wildness plagued the Black Bear pitching staff in 2018 as it combined to issue 281 walks and hit 90 batters in 448 1/3 innings.
Laweryson had an outstanding 2018 season (3-3, 3.42 ERA, 2 saves), making 21 appearances, 17 out of the bullpen. He struck out 52 and walked nine in 52 2/3 innings.
Silva (3-6, 6.10 ERA) had eight starts among 14 outings and Kemble (1-0, 8.78 ERA) appeared in nine games with two starts. Pushard pitched once last season before being redshirted with an arm issue. As a freshman, he was 1-0 with a 1.00 ERA in 11 relief appearances covering 18 innings.
The bullpen is led by America East All-Rookie selection Matt Geoffrion (1-2, 2 saves, 5.16) and Bangor junior lefty Trevor DeLaite (2-3, 8.61), who has struggled during his first two seasons.
UMaine will be without righty Chris Murphy (1-5, 12.58), who transferred, and left-hander Eddie Emerson of Lewiston (0-4, 7-89), who underwent hip surgery.
Hampden redshirt freshman Alex McKenney, who underwent Tommy John surgery around the same time as Courtney last April, is not expected to pitch this season.