ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine’s 10-6 loss to Hartford on Sunday magnified a deficiency in the Black Bear pitching staff and interim head coach Nick Derba intends to use next weekend’s four-game non-conference series with Manhattan College to solve his problem.
“We’ve got to find ourselves a No. 3 starter,” said Derba, whose Black Bears received quality starts from Bangor’s Justin Courtney and Cumberland’s Jonah Normandeau to sweep Saturday’s doubleheader, 1-0 and 3-2.
Five of the six pitchers Derba used in Sunday’s loss surrendered at least one run. Only Zach Winn did not. He allowed one hit with a strikeout and a walk over the final two innings.
Hartford pounded out 15 hits and UMaine pitchers issued six walks and hit two batters.
Junior right-hander John Arel started but was limited to 50 pitches because he is coming off an arm ailment.
Two pitchers expected to be top-of-the-rotation starters, Arel and Nick Silva, had the first two stints. Connor Johnson, Cody Laweryson and Eddie Emerson also pitched before Winn finished up.
Junior Arel allowed one hit and a run in two innings with a walk, a strikeout, a hit batter and a wild pitch. It was his first start of the season after a 1 1/3-inning relief outing. He threw 40 pitches, 22 of which were strikes.
Sophomore Silva, the closer last year, was roughed up for four hits and three runs in 1 2/3 innings. He walked two and struck out one.
After starting the season with three exceptional outings in which he allowed just two runs and 13 hits over 19 innings with 16 strikeouts and nine walks, Silva has surrendered 18 earned runs and 19 hits in 10 2/3 innings over his last four appearances with 11 walks and eight strikeouts.
“John is going to help us out at some point but we can’t have those types of outings. He may not be game-ready to do more than one or two innings,” said Derba.
Arel was 3-9 last year with a 3.94 ERA and his 11 starts ranked second on the team. He led the team with 75 1/3 innings pitched and 77 strikeouts.
Silva, according to Derba, hasn’t been locating his fastball as evidenced by the homer hit by Hartford’s Nick Campana on an 0-2 fastball that was right down the middle.
“That (pitch) was supposed to be off the plate,” said Derba. “Courtney and Normandeau had command of their fastballs and they had a lot of success. If you don’t have command of your fastball, you don’t have a shot.”
Derba said Silva has a lot of potential and instead of having him throw in the bullpen during the week, “we’ll have him throw live to hitters. We have to get him back in the zone and feeling more confident that he can throw strikes and be competitive in the strike zone.”
Silva was 3-3 with a team-high five saves and a 5.89 ERA last year. He struck out 52 and walked 18 in 47 1/3 innings.
Derba said some of the pitchers who could get starts in the battle for that third spot include freshman Laweryson Moscow, junior righties Chris Murphy and Winn and freshman lefty Trevor DeLaite of Bangor, who couldn’t pitch last weekend due to a sore back muscle.
Sophomore third baseman Danny Casals, an America East All-Rookie choice last year, suffered a separated shoulder diving for a line drive on Sunday so Derba is moving catcher Chris Bec to third. He had been sharing the catching with Jon Bennett.
Derba expects Casals to be sidelined for at least three weeks but said “if he suffered some soft tissue damage, we would probably lose him for the season.”
“[Sophomore] Zach Hodges will get an opportunity to DH,” said Derba, who had been using Bec and Bennett at DH when they weren’t catching.
Casals, the leading hitter (.310) on last year’s team, is batting .247 with a homer and five runs batted in. He is expected to see a doctor on Tuesday.