Whatever it takes
Southern Maine's Richards pitches 15.1 innings on final day
APPLETON, Wis. -- Human limbs are made of tissue, muscle and bones, but Southern Maine pitcher Andrew Richards’ right arm was Grade-A rubber on the final day of the 2013 NCAA Division III Baseball Championship.
The Huskies lost 4-1 to Linfield in Tuesday’s national title game, but with no disgrace. The fact they had a shot hinged on Richards’ seemingly elastic arm.
A 6-foot-2, 185-pound right-hander, he pitched 12 innings in relief in Tuesday’s earlier, play-in victory against Ithaca, a 13-inning affair. The winner advanced to meet Linfield for the championship, a game Richards started on an hour’s rest.
He lasted 3.1 innings before being removed during Linfield’s decisive four-run outburst in the bottom of the fourth.
“Out on the mound, I wasn’t feeling any fatigue, but when I got in the dugout my legs were sore,” Richards said. “If you stop doing something, maybe it catches up to you. If I just keep throwing, I’m fine.”
“This kid did a tremendous job,” said Southern Maine head coach Ed Flaherty of his sophomore slinger. “He’s got a rubber arm. We thought that was the best way.”
Richards entered Tuesday’s play-in game against Ithaca in the second inning, in relief of freshman starter Shyler Scates. He normally operates from Southern Maine’s bullpen, but postseason rigors and injuries to junior starters Chris Bernard and Logan Carman thrust him into an all-purpose role.
“I threw [14.2 innings] in one day in the regional finals,” Richards said of the Huskies’ victorious path to the New England Regional title. “I started the first game and threw a complete-game shutout and then I came back in the next game and threw [5.2] in relief.”
“I tell you, I’ve never seen a pitching performance like you saw a guy pitch 12 innings in one game, takes an hour off and starts the next one,” Linfield head coach Scott Brosiuis said.
Richards didn’t merely relieve Scates in the play-in game against Ithaca, he threw 152 pitches, 102 of which were strikes. Scates allowed Ithaca’s first two runs while Richards was responsible for the last two, yielding one run each in the sixth and ninth before blanking the Bombers the rest of the way.
“[Wednesday] was special,” Richards said. “I start in the bullpen, obviously. But I wanted the ball the whole time. I knew I had my stuff. I got a day’s rest [Tuesday]. It doesn’t seem like much, but for me, I’ve thrown basically every day.”
Southern Maine’s innings-eater pitched a total of 20 in the New England Regional. He pitched 24.2 in this week’s DIII championship and now owns the school record for most innings pitched in a season — 104.
And, he wanted the ball for the title match against Linfield, as Flaherty faced a dilemma. Unable to use Bernard except as a position player, and with Carman still nursing a bad bruise from a line drive off his left forearm — his pitching arm — during regional play, the choice was clear.
Carman had started Southern Maine’s earlier NCAA tournament loss against Linfield on Saturday, giving up five runs in the first inning of a 10-1 loss. He couldn’t start Tuesday’s championship game, but Flaherty thought he might be able to relieve.
“So you get the question of, in this stage you got to put your best kids out there,” Flaherty said. “And so do you start Carman and see if he can go two or three innings and bring in Andrew? Now the rest period is long and you’re going to stiffen up by that time.
“So our thought process was to keep [Richards] going and then come with Logan behind him the opposite way.”
“For me, since I’ve been a little kid, I don’t really like days off throwing,” Richards said. “I just take it like a position player. I just like to pitch and be a part of the game. I lost the game, but I gave it my all.”