College baseball

After dealing with injury, Morrill looks to rebound in sophomore campaign

Former Rockland District High School athletic standout pitches for UMaine
By Mark Haskell | Apr 01, 2013
Courtesy of: University of Maine Luke Morrill.

Orono — One of the best things a pitcher can possess in his arsenal is a short memory.

Luke Morrill of South Thomaston hopes to exercise that trait on the mound this season.

The 20-year old business management major at the University of Maine in Orono is in the midst of his second season with the Black Bear baseball team — a season that he hopes to see through to the end.

Morrill, who graduated from Rockland District High School in 2011, has appeared in six games thus far this season with the Black Bears, allowing 10 runs (8 earned) on 16 hits and 10 walks, with five strikeouts and a 7.71 earned run average.

"It's going well," said Morrill of his collegiate diamond experience. "I really enjoy it up here. Last year's team we were pretty good, we were just missing [guys]. A couple of us got hurt on the staff, we came back this year and we've got a bunch of freshmen pitchers that are doing well. We've got a lot of potential to do something good this year, so we're pretty excited."

Morrill sustained an arm injury midway through the 2012 season in a game against Colby College of Waterville and he missed the rest of his freshman year.

"I think it was like the third pitch I threw," he said. "It was like a pop [that I felt]. I thought my UCL [ulnar collateral ligament] blew up, but what happened was my triceps snapped over my elbow and just immediately tightened up. I couldn't even straighten out my arm all the way."

Morrill, who said the injury "caused a lot of pain and tightness" in his arm, received consults from Dr. Luke Oh and Clinical Director Scott Waugh — both of Massachusetts General Hospital — and came to the conclusion that surgery was not necessary.

Morrill spent much of last summer rehabbing with his uncle, Mark Lewis, who is the director of physical therapy at Downeast Rehabilitation Associates in Rockport. Lewis also helped Morrill rehab from knee and ankle injuries in high school while the youngster played varsity basketball with the Tigers.

Morrill said, while the end results of his injury rehabs were positive, the experiences "sucked."

"The results were great, [but] doing it wasn't very fun," he said. "[Lewis] definitely didn't make it a walk in the park for me. He did great. He helped me out with my ankle when I hurt it during basketball in high school, my knee during basketball in high school and I came back in the summer last year and he whooped my butt. He put me in the best shape I needed to be to get back up here [to UMaine]."

"We worked on his overall training and his overall conditioning as well," said Lewis. "We do this both here at my clinic and at my house. We had some very evil things to do to him there to get him whipped up into shape."

Lewis said aside from the fact that Morrill is his nephew, working with him from an athletic standpoint was a wonderful experience.

"This is like being able to take a Porsche out for a spin on the highway," Lewis said. "He is a superb athlete. He has a lot of physical gifts."

Lewis added that his relation to Morrill did not affect the process.

"There's a familiarity, but I think we approach it as much as good friends as well as uncle [and nephew]," he said. "Our whole family is very close and he knew what I was doing for him was working for him. He was all business when he showed up [for rehab]."

Now that Morrill is 100 percent functionally, he is back in the fold with the Black Bears as one of the team's two closers, along with Fran Whitten.

Morrill admitted he has not been pitching to his potential with his 7.71 ERA, but has been feeling more confident in recent games.

"It's tough coming off an injury not being able to throw as much as I wanted before the season started," he said. "I didn't want to rush into everything and have it blow up again.

"It's just the innings. I just need to get more innings under my belt. Once I get that, I'm going to be all set."

The sophomore said that while he is happy to contribute in any way he can to help the team wins, it is every pitcher's focus to be a starter.

And Morrill is no exception.

"The starting role is what every pitcher wants," he said. "[But] now my job is out of the 'pen. All I care about is getting the guys out I need to get out and helping the team win."

Morrill, who batted .489 his senior year with Rockland in addition to being an excellent pitcher, was being considered for the starting first basemen role in the fall, though he eventually fell out of the running for that job.

Coupled with the fact he is playing in the prestigious Cape Cod League this summer on a contract pitching for the Chatham Anglers, he decided that throwing, not hitting, would be his future.

"I thought about it and talked to my parents a little bit and [the UMaine] pitching coach," Morrill said. "I just thought if I can just focus and put all my energy and focus into pitching, I think that's the route that's going to take me the most places. Obviously my focus right now is playing for Maine, but I'd like to think that there's a future for me [in baseball] down the road."

Morrill, who played shortstop and pitched during his years with the Tigers, was initially being scouted by UMaine to play a corner infield position before he began pitching last season.

Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at mhaskell@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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