While the rest of the Orono community was trying to find ways to stay warm in the heart of winter, the University of Maine baseball team was on a plane heading south to Clemson, S.C. The Black Bears squad wasn’t heading on vacation though. This was a business trip, as the team kicked off their 2016 campaign with a three-game series against the Clemson University Tigers.
In game one, Bangor native and second-year starting pitcher Justin Courtney turned in an impressive first outing of the season to lead the Black Bears to 4-3 victory over the Tigers. Despite earning a no-decision, Courtney went 5.0 innings, picking up eight strikeouts while
scattering three hits, a walk and allowing three unearned runs.
The Black Bears were lead on offense by fourth-year left fielder Brett Chappell and fourth-year designated hitter Kevin Stypulkowski, who each added two hits to pace the Black Bears. Chappell knocked in a pair of runs and had a triple. Stypulkowski scored a run for Maine and added a double.
Equally as impressive as Courtney’s start was Maine’s trio of relievers who came in for the games’ final four innings to secure the win. Second-year Connor Johnson and fourth-years Charlie Butler and Logan Fullmer combined to pitch four innings allowing just one-hit and no earned runs. Johnson picked up the win while Fulmer fanned two in the bottom of the ninth to secure the save.
Clemson took an early 2-0 lead after one inning of play. Second-year designated hitter Reed Rohlman stroked a double down the first base line that scored third-year short-stop Eli White.
The Tigers lead wouldn’t last long as the Black Bears would tie the score in the top half of the third inning. With just one out and runners on second and third, third-year right fielder Tyler Schwanz was able to reach base on a Clemson error. Second-year second baseman Caleb Kerbs was able to score from third on the play. Just after the Kerbs run, first-year third baseman Danny Casals was able to touch home on a sacrifice ground out to second base from Chappell.
In the sixth inning, Maine would grab the lead as fourth-year catcher Jonathan Salcedo’s single scored Stypulkowski to give the Black Bears the advantage.
An error in the bottom half of the sixth inning would allow the Tigers to knot it back up at 2-2. With a man on first and no outs, Courtney induced a ground ball that looked as though it was a sure double play, but first-year short-stop Jeremy Pena bobbled the ball and all runners were safe. After the error, Courtney was pulled in favor of Johnson. Clemson’s third-year center fielder Weston Wilson hit a ball that took a high bounce and stayed in the infield. Pena would field it cleanly but not before third-year catcher Chris Okey would score from third. Wilson legged it out and was safe at first. Johnson would retire the remainder of the Tigers he faced in the inning to keep the game tied at 3-3.
The Black Bears would regain the lead for good in the seventh inning. With two outs and a man on with the game tied at 3-3, Chappell skied what appeared to be a routine fly ball to center field. However, neither of the two Tigers in the area could find the ball and it dropped in for a base hit. The play was ruled as a triple for Chappell and the hit scored Pena from second base. Chappell’s RBI, his second of the game, would end up being the game winning run.
Butler came in and pitched a clean seventh and eighth inning fanning one and walking one to hold the Maine advantage.
Fullmer took the mound in the ninth to close out the game. Second-year Robert Jolly came in to pinch hit to start the ninth. Jolly reached first as Kerbs mishandled the ball at second base. The error was Maine’s fourth of the contest. Jolly was pinch run for and his replacement was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Fullmer then hit the next batter to put two runners on base.
Fullmer struck out White with a slider, but Fullmer would walk the next batter to make it 4-3 with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. After a deep breath, Fullmer got Okey to chase a breaking ball outside the zone to leave the bases loaded and secure the victory for Maine.
Black Bears fall in game two 9-4
Unlike in game one of the series, where the Black Bears were able to avenge an earlier deficit en route to a 4-3 victory, Maine was unable to dig themselves out of an early hole against Clemson, as the Tigers defeated the Black Bears 9-4 on Saturday.
Maine starting pitcher, second-year right-handed pitcher (RHP) and Toronto Blue Jays draft pick Chris Murphy struggled with his command early. Murphy walked two batters in the first inning but was able to escape the jam with two runners on base. Murphy wasn’t quite so lucky in the following inning.
Murphy hit the first batter he faced in the inning and then walked the next two. A balk would advance all runners, putting Clemson on the board 1-0. Clemson’s second-year third baseman Adam Renwick rapped a double down the left field line that would score two more runs for the Tigers increasing the lead to 3-0. The Renwick double would end the day for Murphy who turned the ball over the first-year RHP Nick Silva. Silva struggled as well, allowing two more runs on two walks, a hit, a wild pitch and a sacrifice ground ball. The Black Bears would end the inning trailing 5-0.
The Black Bears got on the board in the top of the third when Pena stroked a two-out double down the left field line to score second-year second baseman Alex Cabrera who got on base with a single. Cabrera was hot at the plate going 2-4 with a RBI and a run scored while batting ninth in the Black Bears’ lineup.
The Tigers would answer in the bottom half of the inning as they plated four more runs off of four hits, one of which was a single to left from first-year right fielder Seth Beer that extended the Clemson lead to 9-1
Despite trailing by eight runs after three innings, Maine continued to battle and show signs of life. Fourth-year Shane Bussey started the fifth inning with a single to right field and advanced to third on a double by first-year designated hitter Victor Danza. Cabrera then singled to right center scoring Bussey and advancing Danza to third. The Black Bears would plate another run on a double steal attempt. Cabrera took off to second base and was thrown out by Clemson’s Okey. Once Okey had committed to throwing, Danza broke towards the plate and scored to cut the deficit to 9-3.
The Black Bears would score one more run in the sixth inning. Stypulkowski hit a deep ball to right field. The Clemson right fielder slipped and the ball dropped in for a base hit. The gaffe allowed Schwanz to score to cut the score to 9-4.
Second-year righty Jonah Normandeau’s performance was a bright spot for the Black Bears as he relieved Silva and went on to pitch 5.1 innings of shut-out baseball. Normandeau allowed just one hit, walked zero, and fanned three. Casals picked up a pair of hits. Chappell continued his impressive series picking up two more base hits, giving him four hits on the weekend.
Clemson clobbers Maine in game three 19-2
Not much went right for the UMaine baseball team on Sunday, as the Black Bears allowed 19 runs on 22 hits to drop game three of the series 19-2.
For the first time in the series, the Black Bears took the first lead of the game as Schwanz hit a solo shot over the left field wall for the team’s first home run of the young season.
Clemson would answer in the bottom of the first inning as they scored two runs on three hits off of Maine starter, third-year RHP Jeff Gelinas from Saco, Maine.
The Clemson bats would come alive in the bottom of the fourth as they extended their lead to 5-1 on a three run homer from second-year center fielder Chase Pinder. Okey would add an RBI single in the inning to increase the Tiger’s lead to 6-1.
Schwanz would continue with the hot stick in the top of the fifth as he laced a RBI double down the left field line to bring in Casals to cut the deficit to four runs at 6-2.
Stypulkowski and second-year first baseman Brenden Geary each hit a double for Maine. Casals and Pena chipped in with a single apiece, but that would be the only offense the Black Bears would generate.
Clemson put the nail in the coffin in the bottom half of the fifth inning as Beer hit a grand slam to highlight a seven-hit, seven-run inning for the Tigers. Beer was 2-for-3 on the day. Pinder finished 2-for-3 with four RBIs and three runs scored. Other Tiger repeat hitters were Wilson and second-year first baseman Chris Williams who each added three hits and White and Renwick who chipped in with two hits apiece.
The pitchers of decision were first-year Jake Higginbotham for Clemson and Gelinas for Maine. Higginbotham picked up the victory in his first collegiate start scattering six hits, two runs (both earned), two walks and three strikeouts in five innings of work. Gelinas took the loss for the Black Bears only lasting four innings, allowing 11 hits and 9 earned runs. He walked three and fanned two.
The Black Bears will look to snap their two-game losing streak next weekend when they travel to New Mexico State for a four game series. Maine returns to action Feb. 26 with a first pitch scheduled for 9 p.m.