When Trevor DeLaite and his Liberty University teammates were watching the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament selection show on Monday afternoon, they were pretty certain they were going to earn a spot, even though they were knocked out of the ASUN Conference tournament.
It wasn’t until the pairings for the last of the 16, four-team regionals were announced that the Flames found out it earned an at-large berth and were headed to Knoxville, Tennessee, for the NCAAs.
“We were pretty confident we were going to get in. If you looked back at our overall season, we definitely had a strong resume. But it got a little nerve-wracking,” admitted DeLaite, a former Bangor High School pitching star who also played at the University of Maine.
Liberty (39-14) plays Duke (32-20) at noon on Friday before host Tennessee, the nation’s No. 3 overall seed, faces Wright State (35-11) at 6 p.m.
DeLaite, the ASUN Pitcher of the Year and a member of the ASUN All-Tournament team, will get the start against the Blue Devils.
The graduate student, who spent four years at UMaine before transferring, sports an 11-1 record and a 1.98 earned run average. He has allowed 76 hits in 100 innings with 83 strikeouts and 19 walks. Opponents are hitting .215 against him.
DeLaite pitched his team’s second game in the ASUN tourney after the Flames lost their opener to Jacksonville 2-1.
The lefty tossed a six-hit shutout with seven strikeouts and no walks in a 6-0 victory over Kennesaw State. The Flames then beat North Florida 5-2 but lost 7-3 to Jacksonville in the championship round.
“This is definitely cool. One of the biggest reasons I came down here was to pitch in a regional,” DeLaite said.
He said throwing a shutout under pressure in an elimination game in the ASUN Tournament is “good to have under your belt going into the regional” from a confidence standpoint.
DeLaite did not pitch in Liberty’s two non-conference meetings this season against Duke. The Blue Devils won 5-4 on March 30 in Durham, North Carolina and prevailed 7-0 on April 20 in Lynchburg.
“It’ll be a good matchup for us. I’ve seen their hitters. They’re aggressive. I’ll look at more video on them during the week,” DeLaite said
He posted a team-high seven saves for UMaine in 2019 with a 2.12 ERA and held opponents to a .185 batting average.
DeLaite said the Flames have high expectations.
“Our goal is to win the tournament and keep moving on,” DeLaite said. “I have confidence in our team and our abilities. We have to go down there and play good, clean baseball.”
DeLaite’s former UMaine teammate, outfielder-first baseman Hernen Sardinas, attended the ASUN Tournament to watch his friend pitch since his Stetson team, coached by former Black Bears mentor Steve Trimper, didn’t qualify.
The teams are in different divisions and didn’t meet during the regular season.
Sardinas, who played at Stetson after being an All-America East first-team pick at UMaine in 2019, earned All-ASUN first-team honors this spring. He led the Hatters in batting average (.348), hits (63), doubles (17), home runs (9), runs batted in (49), total bases (109) and slugging percentage (.602).
“He had a real good year,” said DeLaite, a former Maine Gatorade Player of the Year at Bangor High and the recipient of the Dr. John Winkin Award given to the state’s top senior player.