University of Maine graduate student center fielder Dylan McNary is having a breakout second season with the Black Bears after transferring from Villanova. Credit: Courtesy of UMaine Athletics

University of Maine graduate student center fielder Dylan McNary hit .400 with two homers and six runs batted in during a three-game sweep of UMass Lowell last weekend.

The performance earned him the honor of being named America East Player of the Week. It’s also a tribute to his perseverance after a frustrating 2022 season in which he appeared in only 10 games and had just seven plate appearances.

McNary had played in 83 games in three seasons at Villanova University in Philadelphia, starting in 80 of them, before transferring to UMaine after the 2021 campaign.

“We expected him to help out right away last year,” said UMaine head coach Nick Derba. “He didn’t. He didn’t play at all.”

McNary said he worked hard in the offseason to erase the memory of the 2022 season and prepare for this season.

Now McNary, who hits in the nine spot in the batting order, is hitting .289 with six homers and 20 runs batted in. He leads the team in triples with two and also has four doubles. He third on the team in slugging percentage (.632) and stolen bases (7) and fourth on the team in homers, RBIs, total bases (48) and runs scored (20).

“He has gotten better. There is something to be said for that,” Derba said. “Some people would crack after that but he got stronger from it. He is playing the way winners do.”

And a lot of good things have been happening for McNary this season, who said being in a new environment got the best of him last season.

“He makes our job easy,” said junior shortstop and leadoff hitter Jake Rainess. “If they pitch around him, you’ve got the top of the order coming up and he scores runs. If they pitch to him, he can put it out of the park or hit doubles. It’s a huge advantage to have someone like that in the lineup.”

McNary, who played in 50 games his freshman year at Villanova when he was the starting shortstop, said he loves hitting in the nine spot.

“I see a lot of fastballs and that’s good,” said McNary, who was a career .231 hitter at Villanova.

He has become a more selective hitter, making sure he gets a good pitch to drive.

“Instead of hunting pitcher’s pitches, I’ve been hunting my pitch,” McNary said.

He has been elated over the team’s 6-0 start in conference play, its best since 2012. And he has been pleased with his season so far, too.

“But I feel I can do a little better. I can strike out less and put the ball in play more,” said the 6-foot, 190-pound native of Centerville, Massachusetts, who is third on the team in strikeouts with 26.

He said last Friday’s 9-3 win over UMass Lowell was a noteworthy one for him.

“I had some success early this season but in the first game against Lowell, I started seeing the ball really well. It was great to get back into the swings of things,” McNary said.  

McNary said he is glad he transferred to UMaine.

“It’s a little different here but everything is a lot better. It’s a lot more fun here,” McNary said.

He chose UMaine because Derba had recruited him out of high school so the two has already built a relationship, and he liked UMaine’s facility and atmosphere.

McNary and the Black Bears, who are 12-11 overall, will entertain Albany (3-17-1 overall, 0-6 in America East) for a three-game set this weekend at Mahaney Diamond in Orono. The games are Friday at 4 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at noon.

Albany has lost nine straight.