- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2012

There was no way for Maryland baseball coach Erik Bakich to fully know pitcher Brett Harman’s effectiveness upon his return from Tommy John surgery.

There was one thing, though, he could count on.

“The best thing about Brett is he is a total Jekyll-and-Hyde,” Bakich said. “He is the nicest kid off the field and the meanest [guy] in the ACC when he takes the mound. I don’t know what it is or why it’s that way, but he’s flat mean on the mound.”

He was also flat determined to return there this season.

After missing all of last season, the right-hander ranks eighth in the ACC with a 2.64 ERA as the Terrapins (25-14, 7-11 ACC) enter a weekend series with Clemson at Shipley Field.

The fifth-year senior’s comeback coincides with one of Maryland’s most promising seasons in decades. The Terps have finished 10 games over .500 just once in the last 30 years, and their last NCAA tournament appearance came in 1971.

Ending that drought would be a meaningful cap to Harman’s career, though returning to the mound was a satisfying development on its own.

“The whole process is full of ups and downs, so of course there were downs,” Harman said. “I knew the entire way through I wanted to come back here and I wanted to come back and play baseball. You obviously wouldn’t have the surgery if that wasn’t your major goal. There were obviously days where it was tough to get through, but I never once questioned whether I would come back.”

Harman suffered a shoulder injury in high school and pitched through it, but in compensating for it eventually tweaked his mechanics. It caught up with him during his junior season, and he underwent elbow surgery in November 2010.

The timing allowed Harman, who is scheduled to start Saturday afternoon, 15 months before he would return for a game. In the interim, he did everything he could to remain close with teammates last season. He did some of his rehabilitation while teammates worked out, and he also made a trip for a weekend series to North Carolina when space opened up in the Terps’ travel party.

Although he had enough credits to apply for his kinesiology degree, Harman held off to retain his eligibility. Plans to begin physician assistance school, a multiyear program Harman hopes will lead to a career in orthopedics, could also wait. Of course, there was only one team he wanted to play for if he did return.

“I’ve been with these guys last year; I’ve been with this coaching staff now for three years,” Harman said. “When you come to a school, you have a pride for that school and you want to see the school succeed. There was no thought that even crossed my mind about going anywhere else.”

Nor are there many doubts Harman can thrive on the mound. He didn’t return a harder thrower so much as a wiser pitcher, and he’s enjoying easily the best year of his college career as Maryland remains in the ACC and NCAA tournament picture deep into the season.

“I think it’s part of his makeup,” catcher Jack Cleary said. “Whether or not he thinks he’s ready or not or says he’s ready or not, he gets out there and competes no matter what. A person will show their true qualities when they get on the field, and I think he’s just a true competitor.”

Harman continues to rise on several of Maryland’s career lists. He’s fourth in strikeouts (229), tied for sixth in wins (15) and ninth in innings pitched (233 2/3).

More importantly, he’s both the anchor of a stout pitching corps and a model for a maturing staff poised to help the Terps make a significant breakthrough as a program.

“We wouldn’t have had the success we had early without Brett Harman, from a tangible and an intangible standpoint,” Bakich said.

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