Nick White is a junior outfielder with the University of Maine baseball team. Credit: Courtesy of UMaine Athletics

Nick White’s first season at the University of Maine had just started when he separated his left shoulder in a game against Winthrop on March 3.

As fate would have it, an injury to a teammate gave him a chance to return to the starting lineup.

After center fielder Dylan McNary suffered a season-ending broken finger when he was hit by a pitch during a game against UMass Lowell on April 28, White was inserted into the starting lineup in right field in the second game of the doubleheader and went 1-for-3 with a walk.

The junior scored the only run in a 2-1 loss.

He has since moved to left field and has made the most of it, hitting .400 (12-for-30) since his return with two doubles, five runs batted in and nine runs scored.

“He has been a great contributor,” said UMaine sophomore first baseman Jeremiah Jenkins. “He gets on base, he hits the ball hard, he does what he has to do to help the team win.”

White, a Pepperell, Massachusetts, native, was an All-American in each of his two seasons at Northern Essex Community College in Massachusetts.

“At the end of the day, I know what my strengths and weaknesses are. If I bring my best to this team, I’m going to help us get the job done,” said White, a left-handed hitter who throws right handed.

He said he has been seeing the ball well since his return.

“When I’m at my best, I can grind out at-bats. My strength is being a pest at the plate,” White said.

Quinn McDaniel, UMaine’s junior second baseman, said that White puts together “veteran” at-bats

“He looks comfortable up there. He has stepped up to the plate and produced,” McDaniel said. “He has proven to be a gamer. We’ve been excited to see him play.”

White is currently hitting .368 with a homer, nine RBIs and 10 runs scored in 16 games. He has walked 11 times and has been hit by a pitch twice. His impressive on-base percentage of .519 leads the team.

“He puts the ball in play and that’s very important to me,” said UMaine head coach Nick Derba.

White hits the ball to all fields.

“That’s something I’ve done since I started playing this game. From a very young age, I’ve always been good at hitting the ball where it’s pitched,” said White, who added that he would like to pull the ball a little more and “lose a couple more over the fence.”

He can also play defense. He hasn’t committed an error in 22 chances.

“He is a very good outfielder,” Derba said. “He moves pretty well. He has slightly above average speed, he throws well and he gets really good reads [on fly balls].”

White could play left field, right field, third base or first base, according to Derba.

“I’m a utility guy,” said White, who claimed he’s played every position except catcher.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound White is one of three Northern Essex Community College players on the UMaine roster, along with graduate student outfielder Jeff Mejia and junior outfielder Logan Burrill.

The pipeline to Orono stems from the Northern Essex Community College coach Jeff Mejia Sr., Jeff Jr.’s father.

“I grew up in the northeast and I want to see northeast teams compete with southern teams again. That’s something that is important to me. So staying local was really important,” said White, who chose UMaine because of its team culture. “This is definitely the right spot for me. I love it here.”

White and the Black Bears have earned the top seed for the America East Tournament, which will be hosted by Binghamton on May 24-27. That means they will earn a first-round bye for the six-team tournament that will feature a four-team double-elimination format after the bottom four seeds play an elimination game to open the tourney.

UMaine is 26-19 overall, 16-5 in the conference, and will host league newcomer Bryant University on Thursday and Friday at 4 p.m. and on Saturday at 1 p.m. Bryant is 26-20 and 12-9, respectively.