GORHAM — It was minutes after the University of Southern Maine baseball team lost to Endicott in the NCAA Division III New England Regional on Saturday, setting up a winner-take-all game the next day, when the players expressed confidence they would win.
Why? Logan Carman.
Carman, a senior left-hander who missed much of the season because of shoulder irritation, would pitch. And he didn’t disappoint.
After giving up a run in the first inning, Carman shut down Endicott and helped secure USM’s second consecutive trip to the national championships with an 11-1 victory.
The Huskies, who lost to Linfield in the championship game last year, will play Wisconsin-Whitewater in the first round of the eight-team, double-elimination tournament at 8:45 p.m. Friday.
Ed Flaherty, in his 29th season as the Huskies’ coach, knows what a healthy Carman means.
“Oh my God,’’ he said. “It makes the total difference between us winning the regional or not, between us competing for a national championship or not. He’s a star pitcher; he’s a horse. He can pitch into the ninth. He can beat good teams. He can get himself out of jams. He’s security on the mound.’’
Carman is expected to start against Wisconsin-Whitewater, though Flaherty said he’ll wait until Thursday night to set a rotation.
Regardless of when he starts, Carman is excited about getting a second chance to pitch in the national championships.
A year ago he wasn’t healthy. He had been hit on his left forearm by a line drive in the regional final and was still hurting when he made his start in the second game. He lasted two-thirds of an inning, giving up five runs.
“It will definitely be nice to get back and be healthy for this tournament,’’ he said, “because it’s obviously pretty big.”
Carman’s health has been a topic of discussion all season. He was an All-American as a junior when he went 12-1 with a 2.00 earned-run average, and was expected to be even better.
But about a week into the season, while the Huskies were still inside the gym in January, his shoulder started bothering him.
“He was throwing the ball as well as I’ve ever seen that first week,’’ said Flaherty. “He was hitting 87 (mph), 86. Then in his second outing we noticed a big drop in velocity.’’
His shoulder was irritated and the only solution was rest. Carman wasn’t real concerned. “I knew even if I missed some of the first few games that the team was very good and they’d be able to take care of business without me,” he said.
He admits he was frustrated not being about to contribute. But, he said, “I knew if I just took my time I’d be here for the more important part of the schedule.”
When talk of medically redshirting Carman started to be heard – meaning he would miss the season – his teammates became concerned.
“We were all kind of down about it,’’ said senior catcher Matt Verrier. “We knew we needed him to be successful this season.’’
Then Flaherty started pitching Carman in relief. “His control wasn’t good but we were committed to him for the season,’’ said Flaherty. “His next appearance he got better, and the one after that he got better again. It was the start against Bowdoin (a 5-2 win on April 29 in which he pitched seven shutout innings) that showed me he was back on track. Then he became the old Logan.’’
He has three pitches he can throw for strikes at any time: a fastball, curve and change-up.
“He can take a great hitter and make him look like a high school kid,’’ said Flaherty.
Carman feels fresher than last year – “It’s really like midseason for me right now,’’ he said – and that bodes well for the Huskies.
“He’s the guy who can go in and shut a team down,’’ said senior first baseman John Carey. “He’s the guy who can go in and dominate a game. … He’s that type of guy where you can go in and feel like the other team isn’t going to do anything.’’
Carman will bring a 4-1 record and 1.71 ERA into the national championships – not bad for a guy who was recruited as an outfielder out of Exeter, New Hampshire. “I pitched maybe 20 innings in high school,’’ said Carman, who was home-schooled in Newfield, New Hampshire and played baseball for Exeter High. “I came here, did pretty well my freshman year (3-1, 3.48 ERA) and they told me I was going to be a pitcher.’’
And he became a pretty good one at that.
Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at: