ORONO — University of Maine hard-throwing junior Cody Laweryson plans to pitch for the Harwich Mariners in the prestigious Cape Cod League this summer.

Maine coach Nick Derba thinks those plans could quickly change.

“If he makes it to the Cape, assuming he doesn’t get drafted, I want him to get some innings, get some experience. Probably shut him down in the middle of the summer and get him ready for next year,” Derba said after Maine’s regular season finale Saturday against Binghamton. “But I think he’ll get drafted. I would be surprised if he’s here next year. Very surprised.”

University of Maine pitcher Cody Laweryson has started 13 games this spring, going 5-4 with a 2.60 ERA. The Valley graduate has struck out 67 batters in 65.2 innings. Contributed photo/University of Maine athletics

If the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Laweryson gets that call during the Major League Baseball draft, which runs June 3-5, he’ll join a long list of Black Bears who have made the jump to professional baseball.

However, he’ll be the first to come from tiny Moscow, a Somerset County town with a population of 512 residents — which is approximately nine times smaller than the crowd that watched Maine’s Feb. 15 season opener at Florida State.

“It’s been good to settle in as a starter and know exactly what my role is,” Laweryson said.

Laweryson will get the start Wednesday when the No. 5 Black Bears (15-32, 11-12 in conference) open the America East conference tournament against No. 4 UMass-Lowell at 11 a.m. at Binghamton University.

Laweryson appeared in 41 games over his first two season at Maine, primarily out of the bullpen. He made just four starts as a sophomore last season and one as a freshman. Derba said the plan was for Laweryson to become a starter this season.

“We knew he was going to be one of our starters this year. When he came as a freshman, we knew we had something special,” Derba said. “Our job was basically to build him slowly over a two-year period, because the innings he logged in high school aren’t the same. It was about making sure he stayed healthy.”

In 13 games, all starts, Laweryson is 5-4 with a 2.60 earned run average. In 65.2 innings, Laweryson has 67 strikeouts and just 20 walks. He leads the America East in ERA and is second in opponent’s batting average (.228).

Laweryson is reluctant to call himself the staff ace.

“We’ve got three starting pitchers who do a really good job,” he said, referring to teammates Nick Silva and Peter Kemble.

Coming out of Valley High School, Laweryson hadn’t faced many deep lineups in Class D, and he often just overpowered hitters with his fastball. The key to Laweryson’s maturing into a top-of-the rotation starter was the development of his secondary pitches. Now, Laweryson has a strong breaking pitch and slider to go with a fastball he consistently throws in the low-90s.

“Freshman, sophomore year, he relied on fastball command, and he had a lot of success with it. This year, he spent a lot of time working on his breaking ball and changeup. That’s what’s allowed him to go through the order three or four times. That’s why he’s having success so much later in the game, not so much early in the game,” Derba said.

Laweryson has been consistent, save for a May 4 hiccup against conference leader Stony Brook in which he allowed five runs in five innings.

In 11 of his 13 starts, Laweryson allowed two or fewer earned runs. Five times he’s allowed no runs.

“He has great command in everything he’s throwing lately. He gets up there and he’s confident. He’s ready to go. As a pitcher, that’s the biggest thing. Be confident, know what you’ve got, and throw strikes,” said freshman catcher Ryan Turenne, who has been behind the plate for most of Laweryson’s starts this season.

Turenne said he was intimidated by Laweryson at first.

“I’m a freshman, so coming into it, I’m thinking ‘Don’t screw up…. Show him I belong out there with him,'” Turenne said. “He’s a great kid. He’s somebody I look up to on the team.”

The fastball is still Laweryson’s out pitch.

“I’m working everything off that, my slider and changeup off that,” Laweryson said.

Laweryson has turned in a few gems this spring, including March 31 when he took a perfect game into the seventh at Stony Brook, a game Maine lost 2-0. Last Friday, Laweryson allowed just one run in seven strong innings in  a 4-1 victory over Binghamton at Mahaney Diamond in Orono. He allowed one run on seven hits and two walks with six strikeouts. He retired the final seven batters he faced.

“I got hit around a little bit early, but I settled in,” Laweryson said.

Added Derba: “Jeez, he’s had a lot of good games. I really couldn’t say one game was his best. He’s thrown a lot of six, seven inning games with one run. The big thing with Cody is, he has great fastball command, but the kid’s got ice. He’s got ice water running in his veins. He’s got a special character about him.”

If Laweryson’s name isn’t called in the upcoming draft, he’ll go to Harwich this summer and face some of the top hitters in college baseball, while preparing for a senior season with the Black Bears.

“As of now, I’m playing for Harwich. Hopefully, I’ll stay in a starting role, but I’ll come out of the pen. Just to be there is an honor,” Laweryson said. “It’s pretty tough to settle into college baseball, especially coming from a school like I came from. There’s not as much talent as there is here.”

Laweryson made one successful leap in competition. Now, he may be on the verge of another.


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