May 30, 2013

Steve Solloway: USM pitcher was there when it mattered the most

APPLETON, Wis. - Logan Carman did nothing wrong. He pitched the two shutouts on Cape Cod the week before the University of Southern Maine got to the NCAA Division III baseball championship.

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Logan Carman was slowed by a bruised pitching forearm, but still pitched the last 42⁄3 innings of the Huskies’ season.

Graham Washatka Photo/Special to the Press Herald

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The USM baseball team gets greeted at the Costello Sports Complex in Gorham on Wednesday after returning from the NCAA Division III championships in Wisconsin. The Huskies finished a win short of a championship.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

He was dominant in a cerebral way, not by striking out opponents with fastballs they couldn't see but by probing for their weaknesses and fooling them. He was the Huskies' ace.

His reward? The inability to pitch effectively again when his team needed him most.

There are no scales of justice in sports. As in life, things don't have to even out.

Carman had a story but in five days of games at Fox Cities Stadium, he wouldn't tell it. Why try to explain how a first-team All-American pitcher with the unbeaten record was suddenly so hittable and so beatable?

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound lefty isn't big on talking about himself. But then, no one is on this USM baseball team. It's one more reason why Ed Flaherty, its coach, loved them.

Excuses? They pretended they didn't understand the word. Baseball has its own, unique scales of justice.

Carman took a hard-hit comebacker off the inside of his pitching forearm in the regional championship game. He was one out away from ending the game. Afterward he admitted that it hurt. But the pain would go away. It's not like he broke something.

In fact, he did. Dozens of tiny blood vessels with the blood pooling around the impact. It's the definition of a bruise, except not your everyday black-and-blue bruise. This would take a couple of weeks or so before the body would repair the damage and allow Carman to whip his arm forward to throw a fastball or snap off a breaking ball.

Carman didn't have weeks. He had days. He told Flaherty he was good enough to pitch in USM's second game against Linfield. Carman couldn't finish the first inning. USM lost 10-1. After the game in the interview room, someone asked Carman about his performance. The inference was clear.

How did a first-team All-American pitcher spit the bit so badly?

Flaherty jumped in, his voice rising. "I'm going to speak for this young man sitting beside me because I know he won't speak for himself."

Carman looked ashen. He wasn't Curt Schilling talking about his torn ankle sheath and a bloody sock. He was a kid still dealing with how his world turned upside down through no fault of his own. He couldn't help his teammates and in this group, that's not simply talk.

Flaherty was right. Carman wouldn't explain, wouldn't look for understanding or sympathy. Could he grip the ball? Did the soreness affect his release?

"Everything," said Carman. The one word would suffice.

USM won its next game with Ryan Yates and Andrew Richards on the mound. It won the game after that with Tyler Leavitt pitching a complete game. The Huskies were heading to the tournament's championship day needing to win two.

Carman could count the innings and the pitchers available to work. Yes, Flaherty had more fresh arms but they mostly belonged to freshmen who hadn't worked in season-ending college games.

Carman said he could pitch. For how long, he didn't know. Sometime after Andrews relieved freshman Shyler Scates in the second inning of Tuesday morning's game with Ithaca, Carman walked alone to the bullpen behind the center-field wall, joining the others.

Flaherty didn't need Carman in this game, not with Richards throwing strike after strike and getting outs. In the last game with Linfield after Richards could no longer throw effectively, the bullpen door opened in the fourth inning and Carman walked out. Linfield led, 3-1.

In a silent press box, a quiet voice said: "There's your story."

Linfield scored a fourth, unearned run. Carman didn't allow a run over the last five innings.

You can play what-if in sports but it's a fool's game. What if the comebacker hadn't hit Carman. What if Carman had taken his two starts in the national tournament?

Carman should know this: When it mattered most he kept the national championship within the grasp of his teammates.

Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

Twitter: SteveSolloway

 

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