While University of Maine baseball is down an efficient arm, the rest of the staff is picking up the pieces. Fourth-year pitcher Justin Courtney is out for the rest of the season in preparation for Tommy John Surgery. “The timetable for Tommy John surgery is usually 10-12 months until you’re in a game again, and next February when the season opens up will be 10 months for me. I’m going to be doing everything I can to get back and be available in our season opener next year,” Courtney said. Courtney’s .179 batting average against was the lowest and best among Maine starting pitchers.
The Bangor native had a record of 1-1 in four starts before going on the DL. The most impressive aspect about Courtney’s statistics is that they all occurred before conference play. Outside of the conference, the Black Bears had a 5-19 record. Courtney’s 2.57 ERA was the lowest on the team, as he struck out 26 batters in 21 innings pitched outside of the conference.
John Arel has been the guy to stabilize the rotation in Courtney’s absence. The 6-foot-7 Connecticut native is 3-1 in conference play and possesses a 1.48 ERA. Arel leads the Black Bears in innings pitched (24.1) and strikeouts (26), and has thrown the only complete game of the season. His only loss this season was in a 1-0 shutout against the University of Massachusetts Lowell on Saturday. Arel struck out 12 batters in six innings pitched.
When asked about his teammates stepping up in his absence, Courtney said, “This year we have a really deep pitching staff, with a lot of people we can put in games at any point in time. It hurts to lose guys to injuries, but Coach Derba and the entire coaching staff have done a great job in preparing all of our pitchers to step into some big roles and pitch in high leverage situations for us in conference play.” Arel’s .174 batting average against is the lowest among Maine starters after Courtney. Considering the importance of conference play, the Black Bears are third in the American East standings with a 6-5 record.
Redshirt fourth-year Zach Winn has been another instrumental piece to the success of the Black Bears’ staff. The Arizona native is 1-0 in three conference starts, and currently holds a 1.80 ERA. He has 16 strikeouts in 15 innings pitched and a batting average against of .170. Winn struck out six batters in a 4.1 inning no-decision this Saturday. He allowed three runs, one earned.
Justin Courtney’s preseason play was an indicator of his skill and value to the Black Bears this season, and the accomplishments of the staff in the absence of their most consistent arm is nothing short of incredible. “The hardest thing to overcome on the mound is being consistent each time you take the field. Some games your stuff will be better than others, for example, your command might be great one day and not as sharp the next, but still giving the team a chance to win is most important,” Courtney said.
Maine’s pitching has a collective ERA of 2.02 and a team batting average against of .207. Going forward with his Tommy John surgery, Courtney said, “With the time off I’m going to have, I will be able to refine my mechanics and get my entire body in great shape to return to throwing next year.”