Chris Carmain’s has had serious injuries to his pitching arm twice, , but that would be hard to comprehend if you witnessed his masterpiece on Feb. 16.
The determined senior ace for Northeastern University took the hill against host Texas A&M, then ranked 23d in Division 1.
He had watched his teammates get pounded during the first two games of the series, 10-2 and 11-2. When it was his time to take the ball, however, Carmain pitched the kind of game that has attracted the attention of Major League Baseball scouts, and justified why he was recruited to be a stopper out of St. John’s Prep in 2009.
On just 83 pitches, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound righthander from Methuen threw a career-high seven shutout innings while allowing just two hits and two walks. The Northeastern bats were quiet in a 1-0 loss, but the message was clear: After two straight seasons of injury and deflation, Carmain, with his surgically repaired right arm, was back.
“He’s performing at the height of his talent,” said Northeastern coach Neil McPhee, who is in his final season as the Huskies skipper.
“Chris’ performance — keeping one of the top 25 teams in the country to one run — gave us the boost of confidence we need at this time of the year.”
Carmain, an expressive and emotional two-year captain, had achieved a victory for his mental state. When his arm gave out in the summer of 2011 after his sophomore season while playing in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the 2012 season.
As a junior in 2013, Carmain dealt with a tendonitis strain and missed more than a month while various doctors gave him differing diagnoses.
“He’s always been an outspoken member of the team,” said centerfielder Connor Lyons, a tricaptain from Bedford, N.H. “He buys into all the things we do and doesn’t care what we think about him. He’s always the first one to get up and encourage the whole team.”
With a 3-2 record and a 1.34 earned run average (just six earned runs in 40⅓ innings) in six appearances, Carmain has set the pace for NU (9-10).
“I had really struggled to be the pitcher I know I could be, so [the Texas A&M game] was the capstone for my career up to that point,” Carmain said.
“I had finally proven to myself and my teammates that I could perform at this level. And not just any team, but the No. 23 team, an SEC school with 7,000 people in the stands.”
Carmain’s opening-season fireworks have morphed into an uncanny number of strikeout-dominated performances recently. At Villanova on Saturday, he posted seven strikeouts in six innings of work in a 5-2 victory. In his previous three starts, he notched a combined 17 Ks, additional signs of a positive return.
“It hasn’t been a consequence of me consciously thinking about [strikeouts],” Carmain said. “My approach on the mound is to throw strikes and allow my defense to work for me. If the situation calls for a strikeout, then so be it.”
His performance against Texas A&M wasn’t the first time he gave the Huskies a lift. His first game back in 2013 after missing time due to injury was in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament against UNC-Wilmington. McPhee had no idea what he’d get out of his previously ailing starter, but the results were illuminating.
Combining with Matt Cook and James Mulry, Carmain led Northeastern to a 5-4 victory in five innings of work.
“I asked him to go out and give as much as he could, and he came into that game, after really having another lost season,” McPhee said. “It was just an incredible performance.”
NU rightfielder Sean Lyons (Connor’s older brother) calls Carmain “a real competitor.”
“I think his mental and physical capabilities are above where they were before,” said the elder O’Connor, also a tri-captain who has known Carmain since they were each 15.
“I’ve seen guys go through Tommy John and the way Chris went through it mentally, that impresses me the most.”
Carmain, a psychology and criminal justice major, has put his career goals on hold while he awaits the MLB draft in June.
“That’s the ultimate goal, and what I’ve been worked toward my entire career,” said Carmain, a Globe All-Scholastic in 2009 after a 9-1, 2.20 ERA season at St. John’s Prep. “It’s the goal I have for myself if everything works out as planned.”
Cook (Hamilton-Wenham Regional), a senior righthander, provides leadership on a young Huskies squad, while freshman righthander Dustin Hunt (Andover/St. John’s Prep) was outstanding in 6⅓ innings Sunday in a 4-1 win at Villanova, striking out eight while allowing one earned run.