University of Maine's Caleb Kerbs (left) slides safely back to first past University of Hartford's David MacKinnon during a May 2017 baseball game at Mahaney Diamond in Orono Credit: Ashley L. Conti

University of Maine baseball coach Nick Derba said junior second baseman Caleb Kerbs doesn’t want to be pitied.

He just wants to beat his testicular cancer, bring awareness to cancer and return to school and the Black Bears’ lineup for his senior season in the fall.

Credit: Ashley L. Conti

Kerbs, a team tri-captain, learned recently that he had testicular cancer after seeing doctors in the Bangor area and in New York. Derba said he will undergo surgery on Friday in his native New York.

“It’s terrible. It snaps you back to reality,” Derba said. “But they caught it super early and, hopefully, they’ll get it all. He wants to play summer ball.

“If anyone can handle something like this it’s Caleb,” added Derba. “He’s one of the most positive kids I’ve ever been around. He’s dealing with it better than anyone could.”

Kerbs returned to Brooklyn, New York, last week and missed the final regular-season series with Hartford. He spoke publicly about his health situation in a recent Instagram post, revealing the cancer diagnosis.

Derba said Kerbs plans to follow his teammates’ progress in the America East tournament via the internet. UMaine opened the tournament against Stony Brook on Wednesday morning.

The coach said Kerbs has appeared in 133 career games at UMaine.

“He is beloved by the team,” said Derba, who explained that the players handled the news as well as could be expected. “We’re all behind him. We all support him.”

“It’s a tough one. That’s one of our boys right there,” said senior catcher-designated hitter Jonathan Bennett. “We’re playing every day for him. I would love to have him over there at second base. He is probably the hardest worker on our team, by far.

“It sucks that this has happened to him. But he is in good spirits. He checks in with me every day and we all let him know we’re behind him. He’s going to be alright. You’ll see him back here on the diamond next year.”

“It’s obviously tough,” said sophomore pitcher Cody Laweryson. “We’re going to do every he can to make sure he can come back and go to regional with us.”

Kerbs batted .239 this season with seven doubles, 14 runs batted in and 11 runs scored. He committed only three errors in 139 chances for a .978 fielding percentage.

“I think he’s the best second baseman in the conference,” said Derba, who described him as a clutch performer.“When we needed him to come through, he took care of business.”

Derba said the baseball program will hold a cancer awareness event in the fall.

Without Kerbs in the lineup, third baseman Danny Casals slid over to second, first baseman Cody Pasic moved over to third, Hernen Sardinas returned from right field to first base, where he played a year ago, and Colin Ridley took over in right field.

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