After the postponement of Saturday’s double-header because of rain, the University of Maine baseball team’s first home series got off to a late start, with the Black Bears taking the first two of three from the University of Albany.
The Black Bears improve to 15-20 overall and 5-4 in America East Conference, while the Great Danes fall to 13-20 and 5-4 in AEC.
The Black Bears cruised to a victory in the first game, thanks in part to a terrific outing by junior pitcher Keith Bilodeau. Allowing just two hits over seven innings, Bilodeau shut out the Great Danes en route to a 3-0 win.
“I tried getting the changeup going, but I didn’t need it. It’s fun getting off to a good start in front of the home crowd,” Bilodeau said.
After going hitless through the first two innings, the Great Danes posted both their hits in the third — both were singles, followed by 12 straight batters retired to end the game.
The Black Bears made their way to the scoreboard in the bottom of the third, as freshman second baseman Troy Black led off the inning with a double. Sophomore shortstop Michael Fransoso reached on a walk, followed by a double steal that advanced both runners into scoring position. Senior right fielder Joey Martin continued his hot streak, ripping a two RBI-single to center field.
Although they didn’t need it, the Black Bears added an insurance run in the next inning, as sophomore third baseman Tyler Patzalek led off with a single. Freshman Mike Connolly came on to pinch run for Patzalek, eventually scoring off a single by Black, finishing up the scoring at 3-0.
“I found the umpire’s zone and hit my spots after that,” Bilodeau said. “I pretty much put the ball where I wanted to and [freshman catcher] Fran Whitten helped me behind the plate.”
The Black Bears got off on the right leg in the second game of the day, as sophomore pitcher Jeffrey Gibbs put the Great Danes down in order with two strikeouts.
The Black Bears followed that up by batting through the order in the bottom of the first, compiling five runs on six hits off Albany sophomore pitcher Kasceim Graham, yet stranded the bases loaded with one out, limiting damage that could have been done.
“[Graham] came out and walked [junior center fielder Taylor] Lewis to start, then Calbick with the bases loaded and momentum went our way,” Black Bears head coach Steve Trimper said. “He settled in and we weren’t able to put anything together [after that] because he wasn’t walking guys.”
“It was important to give Jeff a lead,” Fransoso said. “When he has a lead he can do some damage. He’s hard to hit.”
After another one-two-three inning by Gibbs, Graham also settled into the game, retiring the Black Bears in order.
The Great Danes managed their first hit in the top of the fourth, a sharply hit grounder by sophomore first baseman Greg Muller that Patzalek just missed on the dive attempt. Nothing came of the single, as Gibbs retired the next three batters.
After the offensive onslaught in the first inning, Graham settled in, retiring the next 15 UMaine batters before freshman designated hitter Alex Calbick reached on a single before getting picked off at first.
The Great Danes reached the scoreboard in the top of the fifth after an RBI-double by sophomore left fielder Nolan Gaige.
Scoring was silent until the top of the eighth, when Albany gained their second run of the game, this one off relief pitcher, sophomore Stephen Perakslis. After a leadoff walk by Gaige, senior shortstop Kyle Crean drove him home with a deep RBI-double.
After another walk, Perakslis was pulled in favor of freshman Shaun Coughlin, who allowed an Albany run on a sacrifice fly by freshman designated hitter, Josh Nethaway, pulling the score to within two, at 5-3, where it would remain at the end of nine.
The Black Bears walked eight batters in the finale, something Trimper looks to stifle.
“It’s nice to win a series in one day. We got that behind ourselves so we’re looking for a home sweep,” he said. “We played good baseball today besides the walks. We only give up runs when we walk guys. No one hits us hard. Our best pitchers are the guys that aren’t walking batters. You can’t give away free stuff: no walks, no errors and no hit batsmen.”
The Black Bears look to sweep today, as junior pitcher A.J. Bazdanes is scheduled to start on the mound.
“Tomorrow we need to come out and do the same thing we were doing,” Fransoso said. “[We need] to play strong defense, good pitching and timely hitting to come out with the sweep.”
The first pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.