ORONO, Maine — Miami and Orono have little in common.
The Miami heat and humidity is as intense as the cold and snow of a Maine winter.
Pitcher Nick Silva and third baseman Danny Casals left Miami to play baseball at the University of Maine and they have no regrets.
They are two of six seniors who will play their final game at Mahaney Diamond on Saturday to complete a three-game America East set with Binghamton. The teams split a Friday doubleheader.
“It was definitely scary coming up here and being so far from home,” Casals said. “But I made a lot of friends and we became like a family.”
Silva agreed that it was daunting at first but that everyone, including their coaches, welcomed them with open arms.
“We’ve enjoyed it. I think we would both say it was the best decision we’ve ever made,” Silva said.
Silva said he’s now a pro at clearing the snow off his car.
Left fielder Colin Ridley, second baseman Caleb Kerbs, pitcher Justin Courtney and infielder Bobby Brennan are the other outgoing seniors, all of whom were honored before Friday’s games.
UMaine has an 80-129 record over the past four seasons, 39-50 in America East. The Black Bears are 7-6 in the league tourney, reaching the championship game in 2017.
“It has gone by way faster than I ever thought it would,” said Bangor’s Courtney. “It has been an unbelievable ride. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, the good and the bad.”
His highlights include the wins over top-25 teams and the friendships he has made.
“It has been a unique experience not a lot of other students get to have,” Ridley said. “I’ll always remember the guys on the team and some of the trips we went on including the one where we had to stay in an airport overnight.”
“I got to play the game I love and make friends. It has been awesome,” Casals said.
Casals goes into Saturday’s game with a career batting average of .292. He has 25 home runs, 108 runs batted in, 41 doubles and four triples. Ridley has hit .259 with 11 homers, 91 RBIs, 36 doubles and two triples.
Kerbs is at .239 with four homers, 60 RBIs, 19 doubles and four triples while Brennan was at .162 with three RBIs and two doubles in only 74 at-bats.
Courtney has compiled a 10-14 record with a 4.21 earned run average in 173 1/3 innings with 138 strikeouts and 53 walks.
Silva is 12-17 with a 5.44 ERA over 226 2/3 innings. He has struck out 214 and walked 126.
Kerbs and Courtney, who earned an MBA, have spent five years at UMaine because Kerbs and Courtney each had a redshirt year. Brennan played one year at UMaine, transferred to Palm Beach Atlantic College in Florida and returned to UMaine this year.
“I love Maine,” said Florida native Brennan. “I wanted to spend my last year here and I’m going to live on Moosehead Lake [after the season]. I haven’t had a lot of playing time but it doesn’t matter. I’ve had a lot of great experiences and met a lot of great people.”
Kerbs, a cancer survivor, said playing against nationally ranked teams and proving that they can compete with them will always be a highlight.
“Even hanging with a team like Mississippi State is a big thing. And the America East tournament is really fun,” Kerbs said.
The tournament begins Wednesday in Vestal, New York.
The seniors said their time at UMaine has flown by.
Casals summed up the feeling among the players that it has been a valuable learning process that has led to maturation and lifelong friendships.
“I have grown as a person and as a baseball player,” Casals said.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs [on the field] but I’m pretty happy with my career,” Silva said. “I’ve come to peace with it. I take the highs more than the lows.”
Watch: UMaine pitcher Justin Courtney of Bangor talks about successful freshman season