BINGHAM, Maine — Upper Kennebec Valley Memorial High School has a storied athletic history, most prominently in boys basketball where the Cavaliers won 101 consecutive games and six consecutive Class D state championships around the turn of the century.
Cody Laweryson hopes to add some lasting memories for that rural school of 70 students in another sport — baseball — during the coming years, first as a senior at Valley next spring and then as an alumnus playing at the University of Maine, where he has verbally committed to join the Black Bears in the fall of 2016.
Under that commitment, Laweryson has accepted a partial scholarship offer.
“It’s been a goal of mine since I was 8 or 9 years old, just to play at the highest level possible,” said the 6-foot-3-inch, 170-pound Laweryson, the son of Scott and Jolene Laweryson of Bingham. “In this state, UMaine is the highest level.”
The hard-throwing Cody Laweryson visited the Orono campus most recently last week where he worked out for Maine coach Steve Trimper and had his fastball clocked at between 85 and 87 mph.
There’s the belief — likely on both sides — that this veteran of the Western Maine Class D high school ranks will be able to add to that velocity in relatively short order.
“Probably the biggest thing for me is to get a lot stronger because I haven’t really lifted a lot,” said Laweryson, who also plays basketball and soccer at Valley. “Being tall has helped a lot so far, but I think I can add a couple more miles per hour on my fastball before I go there.
“They think I have a lot of potential, but potential isn’t really anything until you go out and perform,” he said.
The 17-year-old also visited Southern New Hampshire University, a Division II program in Hooksett, New Hampshire, before making his decision.
“I thought that was a really good campus,” he said, “but when the University of Maine offered me a scholarship, I couldn’t turn that down.”
Laweryson is believed to be the first student from his high school to receive a Division I athletic scholarship offer since Kristin Baker, a 2006 Valley graduate who initially walked on to the University of Maine Black Bears’ women’s basketball team but eventually earned a scholarship from the Black Bears.
Brian Andre, a 6-foot-9 center who was part of the school’s state championship boys basketball dynasty from 1998 through 2003, was a 2002 Valley graduate who earned an athletic scholarship from the University of Buffalo after a postgraduate year at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield. He later transferred to UMaine.
Laweryson’s relationship with the Black Bears’ baseball program dates back some five years when he began attending winter clinics on campus. He subsequently played on an AAU baseball team based in the area, the Eastern Maine Eagles.
“I’ve known the coaches for a long time and figured it was the best place to be,” he said.
Because of the small student enrollment at Valley, Laweryson began his high school baseball career for the Cavaliers as an eighth-grader.
He played pitcher and shortstop for the team as a junior under his father, who took over the baseball head coaching duties at Valley this spring after previously coaching softball at the school. Laweryson appeared on the mound largely as a closer for the Cavaliers, who advanced to the Western D semifinals before dropping a 4-3 decision to Richmond.
Laweryson pitched a complete game in that contest, yielding just five hits while striking out 10 batters.
This summer, Laweryson played for both the RTD 39ers American Legion team based in the Skowhegan-Madison area as well as for the Maine Lightning AAU team. The Lightning, based at The Edge Academy in Portland, competed in tournaments throughout New England and as far away as New Jersey.
Among his Lightning teammates was Oceanside of Rockland-Thomaston pitching standout Nick Mazurek, who recently made a verbal commitment to continue his baseball career at Southern New Hampshire University beginning in the fall of 2016.
“A lot of kids don’t get a lot of exposure, so you have to go out and get exposed to colleges by joining AAU teams or teams like that,” Laweryson said. “I just put in the extra work to do that.
“I have to thank my dad, he’s the one who drives me around to all these places because I don’t even have my driver’s license yet,” he said.
Graves named to PI boys XC post
Veteran distance runner Evan Graves has been named the new boys cross-country coach at Presque Isle High School, according to athletic administrator Mark White.
Graves replaces Justin Fereshetian, who coached the Wildcats for the last two seasons. Fereshetian was hired in June to take over the cross-country skiing program at the Maine Winter Sports Center.
Graves, a 1999 graduate of Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor, went on to run at cross-country at the University of Maine of Presque Isle, where he was a four-time qualifier for the NAIA National Championships.
He has completed 12 marathons, including a 32nd-place finish at the 2009 Boston Marathon in a time of 2 hours, 26 minutes, 11 seconds.
Graves has extensive interscholastic coaching experience in both cross-country and Nordic skiing.
Graves teaches physical education and health in RSU 39 (Caribou) and lives in Caribou with his wife, Erin, and children, Emma and Easton.