The University of Maine baseball team compiled a 36-15 record and earned New England’s No. 1 ranking in part due to a pitching rotation that held opponents at bay.
On Tuesday, the man responsible for developing those hurlers – pitching coach Mike McRae – took a job as the head coach at Division I Niagara University in Lewiston, N.Y.
McRae received his masters degree in education from Niagara in 1993, served as an assistant there in 1996 and 1997, and grew up across the border in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
McRae said professional and personal goals combined to make Niagara an attractive fit.
“One, my aspirations to become a head coach, and there aren’t that many Division I openings that come up each year,” McRae said.
“Also, it’s near home and it gives me a chance to see friends and family again. And my wife is from that area as well.”
McRae said that his move to Niagara will be put on hold for a bit, though, as he has more important things to deal with first.
“My wife [Michelle] is due any minute,” McRae said. “So obviously, we’re waiting on the baby, [so sometime after the baby is born], we’ll get settled out there.”
The five Black Bear starters went a combined 31-7 under McRae’s tutelage and two pitchers – junior Rusty Tucker and freshman Mike Collar – were recognized as the America East pitcher of the year and rookie of the year, respectively.
“It’s funny. Things take a little while to come to fruition,” UMaine coach Paul Kostacopoulos said. “Rusty had a breakout year, but Mike put in a lot of work to help Rusty get into that position.”
McRae said that he’ll miss watching Collar and his other freshman ace, Camden’s Mike MacDonald, develop, but said he’ll still keep tabs on them.
“It doesn’t mean I won’t follow them, by any means. It’s still just a click of a button away on the Internet,” McRae said.
Kostacopoulos has credited McRae with expanding UMaine’s recruiting base into his native Canada, and the 2001 roster illustrated that: Eight Canadians suited up for the Bears.
Kostacopoulos said that he and assistant Matt Haney will handle the summer recruiting chores as the university search for McRae’s replacement progresses. NCAA rules allow only two coaches to recruit off campus.
Kostacopoulos said the search will have to be finished in time so that a pitching coach is on hand to work with players when they report for practice in the fall.
McRae, a 1991 graduate of Colby College in Waterville, is a published author with a solid list of baseball accomplishments.
His book, “Home Run: A Modern Approach to Baseball Skill-Building,” was released in 1998.
He also served as an assistant coach of the Canadian National Team from 1995-98 and was a guest instructor during spring training for the Toronto Blue Jays.
McRae also worked as an assistant at Winthrop University and Erie Community College, as well as Niagara. He was the head coach at Brock University in Ontario in 1995.
Brown, Pyne land coaching jobs
Former St. Joseph’s College standout athletes Carolyn Brown and J.P. Pyne have been hired as college assistant coaches in their respective sports.
Brown, a two-time academic All-America selection for the Monks, will join the women’s basketball staff at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn.
Brown averaged 10.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game over her career.
Pyne, who established a school record with 24 career saves, took a job as the pitching coach at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H.
During his senior year Pyne ranked fifth in the nation with seven saves and compiled a 3-1 record with a 1.80 earned run average.