With the first series jitters out of the way, the University of Maine baseball team cruised to their first victories of the season, taking two of three games from Stetson University in Deland, Fla. The Black Bears pitched and defended considerably better than in their first series at Auburn, but it was their offense that proved to be the true difference maker. The Black Bears collected 40 hits and produced 29 runs en route to their 7-1 and 16-4 wins in the final two games of the series, having endured a 6-3 loss in the opener.
The offensive explosion came in the series finale, where the Black Bears grabbed 16 runs on 19 hits while holding the Hatters offense at bay in the process.
UMaine grabbed an early lead with two unearned runs in the first two innings off a slew of Stetson miscues. After sophomore left fielder Sam Balzano singled to left and advanced to second on an error, sophomore right fielder Scott Heath brought home Balzano after reaching on a fielding error by the shortstop. The Black Bears produced another run in the second, when junior second baseman Troy Black reached on another Stetson error that allowed junior third baseman Eric White to score, making it 2-0 UMaine.
After three straight singles to lead off the third, the Black Bears had a chance to pad their lead with a bases-loaded opportunity. Balzano stepped in and ripped a single to right that scored one and kept the bases loaded for UMaine. The bases would not stay loaded for long, as senior shortstop Mike Fransoso doubled to the gap in right center to clear the bases and extend the Black Bears’ lead. UMaine would get RBI singles later in the inning by Heath, freshman designated hitter Luke Mogel and junior catcher Mike Connolly, making it 9-0.
UMaine loaded the bases again in the fifth and grabbed another run when junior first baseman Alex Calbick hit into a double play that allowed Balzano to score from third. With a runner still on third, White stepped in next and hammered one off the fence in left field for a two-run homer to pad the Black Bears lead at 12-0.
Black Bear senior pitcher A.J. Bazdanes sailed through the first five innings without issue, but ran into trouble in the sixth. Bazdanes allowed a walk, hit a batter and gave up a single to load the bases with nobody out in the sixth. The right handers’ mistakes would be costly, as Stetson freshman catcher Konner Lutz ripped a bases-clearing double to left center and then scored on an RBI single from freshman second baseman Kevin Fagan. Freshman righthander Burke FitzPatrick came in to grab the final two out of the inning, but the Hatters were now on the board and dropped the Black Bear lead to 12-4.
After Calbick got one back for UMaine in the seventh with an RBI single to right, the Black Bears would cap their scoring with three runs in the eighth. Freshman catcher Jonathan Salcedo and freshman second baseman Shane Bussey entered the game for the Black Bears and produced RBI singles, while junior center fielder Colin Gay picked up an RBI after grounding into a double play.
FitzPatrick and sophomore reliever Steve Trask would combine for 3 2/3 scoreless innings of relief to seal the 16-4 victory for UMaine.
Balzano paced the Black Bears offense with four hits and an RBI, while Fransoso added two hits and three RBIs. White and Black chipped in two hits and two RBIs apiece.
Stetson received three hits from sophomore center fielder Tanner Blackman as well as Lutz, who also chipped in three RBIs.
In game two, the Black Bears picked up their first win of the young season with a dazzling performance from junior starter Tommy Lawrence. The righthander went eight strong innings, giving up just one run and striking out six, for his first victory as a Black Bear.
UMaine got a lift offensively from Heath, who collected four hits and four RBIs in the contest. Heath picked up RBI singles in the sixth and the eighth before adding a two-run single in the ninth to cap his end of the offense.
After Heath got them on the board in the sixth, the Black Bears struck again in the eighth as Balzano produced an RBI fielder’s choice before Heath struck again to give the Black Bears a 3-0 lead.
Stetson grabbed a run in the eighth with an RBI double from sophomore shortstop Tyler Bocock, but UMaine would add insurance in the ninth. Black beat out a bunt between the pitcher and first that scored sophomore outfielder Brian Doran for the first run of the inning. Gay stepped in next and picked up an RBI after reaching on an error that scored Black. Heath stepped in and finished things off with his fourth single of the game that scored Gay and White.
Junior righthander Shaun Coughlin, trying to bounce back after giving up four runs at Auburn, threw a scoreless ninth to give UMaine the 7-1 victory.
In the opener, the Hatters scored five runs in the seventh and eighth off junior starter Fran Whitten and junior reliever D.J. Voisine and the Black Bear bats were unable to answer late in a 6-3 loss.
UMaine got out to a 2-1 lead going into the seventh after RBI fielder’s choices from Heath and Whitten. Sophomore starter Luke Morrill kept the Black Bear lead intact by giving up just one run over 5 1/3, but Stetson took advantage soon after Morrill exited the ball game.
Senior right fielder James Rasmussen ripped a two-run double in the seventh off Whitten to take the lead and senior designated hitter Mitch Brennan extended the advantage with an RBI single to right, making it 4-1.
Fagan and Bocock added RBI singles of their own in the eighth to up the Stetson lead to 6-2.
Fransoso added a sacrifice fly in the ninth to make it 6-3, but that’s as close as UMaine would get.
The Black Bears, now holding a record of 2-5, will take a week off before heading back down to Florida for a 10-game swing around the sunshine state, March 2-13.