Jacob Posik is a native of Turner, ME and an undergraduate student at the University of Maine studying Political Science and Maine Studies. During the 2015-2016 academic year, Jacob was the sports editor of the Maine Campus and is now serving as news editor. His writing can also be found in his Bangor Daily News blog, Top Shelf Gripe, and in The Maine Wire, where he writes political commentary.

http://topshelfgripe.bangordailynews.com
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Baseball splits Doubleheader against Rhode Island

Maine was one swing away from sweeping Rhode Island during Tuesday’s home doubleheader. In a tied first game, the Rams watched helplessly as the Black Bears had bases loaded in the final inning. With two outs, first-year outfielder Colin Ridley walked up to bat. He hit the ball almost perfectly, yet an even more perfect defensive catch sent the game into extra innings, where the Black Bears ended up losing to the Rams 6-4. In the second game, a unique duo of first-year pitchers helped Maine preserve a 1-0 victory.

With the split series, Maine advanced to 12-27 on the year, while their 2-9 conference record remained the same. Rhode Island on the other hand moved to 17-20 overall.

In the first game, Maine couldn’t capitalize with three runners on bases in the ninth inning. Instead, they allowed Rhode Island to get a pair of runners through home plate in the 10th, as the Rams stole the 6-4 victory.

Ridley made an impact for the Black Bears in his five trips up to bat. He batted in a runner, while notching two hits and a run of his own. Second-year outfielder Jordan Powell had a great game for the Rams. He walked up to the plate four times, accumulating three hits and a run. Both teams ended the day with 11 total hits.

Third-year pitcher Blaise Whitman opened the day on the mound for the Rams. He got exposed in his four innings of action, where he gave up six hits, four runs and two walks. He also only managed to force a single strikeout. Second-year pitcher Jonah Normandeau began the game for the Black Bears. Starting six innings, Normandeau allowed seven hits and fours runs, while striking out seven batters. Though he was forcing strikeouts left and right for most of the game, Normandeau gave up some bad throws in the third inning.

“He didn’t have command that’s the difference right there,” Head Coach Steve Trimper said. “He didn’t have command and it led to a big inning, you know, he gave up some hits.”

The Black Bears took the game’s initial lead at the bottom of the second. Ridley started by striking a triple, before being brought home by a double from third-year outfielder Tyler Schwanz. Schwanz then found himself on third base following a single from fourth-year first baseman Brenden Geary. When second-year outfielder Caleb Kerbs reached on a fielder’s choice, Schwanz found the perfect chance to make it home. The two runs gave Maine the 2-0 advantage.

The Rams battled back to capture the lead at the top of the third. First-year infielder Kevin Heiss opened the inning by forcing a walk. Heiss then made it to second base when second-year infielder Chris Hess was struck by a pitch. With a hit from Powell, Hess made it to third, while Heiss marched into home. When fourth-year outfielder Ryan Olmo singled through the right side, Hess managed to score a run. Later on in the inning, fourth-year infielder Connor Foreman hit a single, which allowed both Powell and Olmo to score. With the four runs, the Rams took the 4-2 lead.

The Black Bears responded by tying the game up at the bottom of the third. First-year infielder Danny Casals began by forcing a walk, before stealing second base. A ground ball from first-year infielder Jeremy Pena allowed Casals to advance to third. When fourth-year catcher Kevin Stypulkowski doubled to right field, Casals completed his journey around the diamond. Stypulkowski scored a run of his own when Ridley hit a single to right field. With the pair of runs, the Black Bears knotted the game up at 4-4.

Following five scoreless innings, Maine had the opportunity to steal the win at the bottom of the ninth. After a trio of hits, the Black Bears found themselves with Casals on third base, Pena on second and Stypulkowski on first. With bases loaded, two outs and the game on the line, Ridley stepped up to bat. He hit what looked like a potential game winner, but a spectacular diving catch from third-year infielder Martin Figueroa kept the game at 4-4 and forced extra innings.

“I think that we had a chance in the ninth inning to win it,” Trimper said. “We came back with the double and Ridley almost got the big hit for us. I think it was just a matter of whose bullpen was going to hold up at that point.”

Maine’s inability to score would haunt them as Rhode Island found two game-winning runs at the top of the 10th. It began when first-year infielder Brett McManus singled to right field. A bunt from fourth-year catcher Derek Gardella brought McManus to second base. Meanwhile, fourth-year catcher Chase Livingston forced a walk to first. When first-year infielder Laurence Hill singled to right field, McManus capped off his run. Livingston then scored his own run once Hess hit a single. The two runs gave the Rams the 6-4 advantage. In the final inning, Maine failed to get anything going, and as a result, Rhode Island preserved the 6-4 victory.

Maine Defeats Rhode Island 1-0

In the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader, Rhode Island had three innings to climb back from a one run deficit, but Maine’s first-year pitcher Nick Silva wouldn’t allow it. Entering the closer role, Silva looked calm and authoritative as he helped the Black Bears preserve a 1-0 victory.

Though his numbers weren’t off the charts, Silva put in a solid three innings near the end of the game. He allowed only two hits and no runs, while forcing two strikeouts. Despite seeing limited action this season, Silva has embraced the demands and difficulties of closing out games.

“It does put on a little more pressure,” Silva said. “You know that you have got to be a little more perfect, but it is fun though.”

The Rams decided to roll with third-year pitcher Evan Flanagan for the first four innings. During that time, he gave up a trio of hits, three walks and a single run. He also notched a pair of strikeouts. Prior to Silva’s performance, fellow first-year pitcher Eddie Emerson opened the game on the mound for Maine. Starting four innings, he allowed only two hits, while giving up no runs and striking out five batters. For Maine, both of their first-year pitchers made their impacts felt.

“The pitchers, both freshmen, did a good job,” Trimper said. “They did a heck of a job, only two walks and then seven strikeouts. But really, they just commanded the zone. We really pitched inside well today.”

When it came to batting, Schwanz put up a solid performance for Maine. He walked up to the plate three times, where he tallied two hits while also batting in a runner. Ridley notched a hit and then turned it into the game’s only run. The only other Black Bear to accumulate a hit was third-year outfielder Lou Della Fera, who finally broke into the starting rotation. Behind those three, it was a relatively quiet game. Both teams ended the day tied with a total of four hits.

Rhode Island looked red hot right out of the gate during the top of the first. Hess quickly forced a walk before being brought to second base by a single from Powell. Moments later, both Hess and Powell managed to steal third and second base, respectively. Despite how they initially clicked on all cylinders, both runners were never able to score as a pair of strikeouts ended the inning. For the remainder of the game, the Rams failed to get any runners past second.

After three scoreless innings, the Black Bears ended the scoring drought at the bottom of the fourth. It started when Ridley hit a double to the right edge of the diamond. Stypulkowski then brought Ridley to third base with a ground ball. Ridley completed his journey to home when Schwanz struck a single to right field. With the lone run, the Black Bears took the 1-0 advantage.

Both teams struggled to get anything going for the remainder of the game. With only a one run lead at the top of the seventh, Maine needed excellent defensive play to hold onto their victory. Stepping up with the game on the line, Silva emerged as a threat. He didn’t allow any runners to get to second base, and quickly forced a trio of outs. As the final inning expired, Maine preserved the 1-0 win. After the game, Trimper acknowledged that Silva has shown quite a lot of ability as the team’s closer.

“As a freshman to do that, that’s really remarkable, so I’m really happy for him,” Trimper said. “But I’m also happy for the future because he’s going to be a big mainstay in that spot.”

Maine takes frontend of doubleheader with 8-1 throttling of UMass Lowell

When it comes to pitching, Maine’s baseball team found their rhythm during Saturday’s home doubleheader against UMass Lowell. A strong outing from fourth-year pitcher Logan Fullmer had the Black Bears cruising to an easy 8-1 win in the first game, while Silva once again shined in the closer role during Maine’s second 1-0 victory.

Following the sweep, the Black Bears raised their record to 14-27 overall, while improving to 4-9 within the America East. After the loss, the River Hawks stumbled down to 17-22, while their conference record fell to 5-12.

In the first game, Fullmer continued looking like a quality starting pitcher. A trio of runs in the eighth inning also helped Maine put the 8-1 game out of reach.

The Black Bears came out swinging, as they out hit the River Hawks 9-6 in the contest. Stypulkowski had a memorable performance for the Black Bears. He recorded two hits and two runs in his three trips up to the plate. Walking up to bat five times, Pena accumulated three hits and two runs, while also batting in a pair of runners. Though he was quiet at the start of the season, Pena has recently emerged as a formidable competitor because he has refocused to the basics.

“Well I’m trying to do less now. I was trying to do too much at the plate, my mind was all over the place and I wasn’t really locked in. But now, I’m just trying to put the ball in play, hit hard, and catch better,” Pena said.

UMass Lowell elected to start off with second-year pitcher Andrew Ryan. He saw seven innings of action, where he gave away seven hits, five runs and five walks. He also managed to notch three strikeouts. Fullmer began the game’s first seven innings for Maine. During that time, he allowed four hits and a run, while striking out four batters. By far Maine’s best strength right now, their pitching has been the reason for their mid-season resurgence.

“Our pitching staff has been doing a really good job, and today they came out and did the same thing,” Pena said.

The Black Bears took the initial lead at the bottom of the second. Pena began by singling to right field, before being brought to second base following a walk from Casals. A fly ball from Ridley then brought Pena to third. While Casals got caught stealing, Pena managed to complete his journey home unnoticed. The lone score gave Maine the 1-0 advantage.

With a pair of runs at the bottom of the third, the Black Bears advanced their lead. Kerbs opened the inning by being hit by a pitch, then proceeding to second base following a walk for Della Fera. Kerbs completed his journey home when Pena struck a double. A fly ball from Casals then allowed Della Fera to make it to home plate. The two runs advanced Maine’s advantage to 3-0.

At the bottom of the fourth, Maine found another run. Stypulkowski began by forcing a walk to first base. When Geary doubled to left field, Stypulkowski made it all the way to third. Following a throwing error, Stypulkowski found an easy path home. The single score put the game at 4-0 in favor of Maine.

The River Hawks finally ended their scoring drought at the top of the fifth. Third-year outfielder Ian Strom singled up the middle before stealing second base moments later. A throwing error then allowed Strom to make it to third. When first-year infielder Mark Tumosa struck a fly ball to center field, Strom capped off his run. Despite the score, Maine held the 4-1 advantage.

The Black Bears found a fifth run at the bottom of the seventh. Pena hit a single to left field, prior to stealing second base. Pena then quickly finished his run around the diamond when Ridley struck a double. With the score, the Black Bears advanced their lead to 5-1.

Maine put the game out of reach at the bottom of the eighth with a trio of runs. It began when Stypulkowski singled to the shortstop, and then advanced to second base on a passed ball. Simultaneously, Geary managed to force a walk to first. When Kerbs hit a double, Stypulkowski scored, while Geary made it to third. Once Pena reached on a fielder’s choice, Geary capped off his own run. With bases loaded, Ridley forced a walk that brought Kerbs through for the final run. The three runs put the game at 8-1 in favor of Maine.

Though the River Hawks managed to get bases loaded at the top of the ninth, they were unable to get any runners through home plate, thus preserving Maine’s 8-1 victory.

“We just tried to hit the ball hard like we always do, go up to plate with a good approach, look for a pitch, don’t miss and hit it hard,” Pena said. “Good things happen when you hit the ball like that.”

Maine finishes doubleheader with 1-0 victory

In the second game of their doubleheader, the duo of second-year pitcher John Arel and Silva helped the Black Bears hold on to win a close 1-0 contest. With the game on the line, Silva looked poised and confident as he stopped the River Hawks in the final inning.

Fourth-year catcher Jonathan Salcedo put up a solid performance for Maine. He walked up to the plate twice, where he accumulated both a hit and a run. Though he didn’t score a run of his own, Casals notched a hit, while also batting in a runner.

Third-year pitcher Steve Xirinachs played the entirety of the game for the River Hawks. He allowed three hits and a single run, while only striking out one batter. Arel opened the first six innings for the Black Bears. In that span, he gave up four hits and no runs, while forcing three strikeouts. Though Arel has performed so well this season, he has had his fair share of struggles when it comes to sealing wins.

“John Arel has been doing great for us,” Pena said. “I felt bad because we haven’t really supported him with runs. Every time he pitches, he goes almost complete games. Unfortunately he gets losses, and today he did good and got the win.”

The River Hawks looked dominant at the top of the first. After being hit by a pitch, fourth-year outfielder Joe Consolmagno made it to first base. A single from first-year outfielder Steve Passatempo brought Consolmagno to third. When Strom reached on a fielder’s choice, the River Hawks found themselves with bases loaded. Just when it looked like they would certainly score, a clutch pair of outs from Arel sent all three players off the field.

The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the third. The Black Bears began their quest to break onto the scoreboard with a double to left field from Salcedo. When Casals singled up to center field, Salcedo made the mad dash all the way to home plate. The one and only score gave Maine the 1-0 lead.

Holding a mere one-run advantage at the top of the seventh, the Black Bears had a tough choice to make. Either they could continue rolling the dice with Arel, or they could switch to Silva to fill the closing role. After six innings had put a strain on Arel’s arm, the team decided to roll with Silva.

“We’ve been noticing that John (Arel) gets a little tired at that 85-90 pitch mark,” Trimper said. “So at that sixth inning he got that 85th and I just said we’re going to go to Silva and close it out that way.”

The choice instantly paid off, as Silva struck out the first two batters he faced. The final batter, second-year infielder Ben Prada, managed to ground the ball out to the mound, but with one quick throw to first base, Silva sealed the 1-0 victory. Despite being pulled in favor of Silva, Arel acknowledged that the team made a good choice.

“I was feeling good in the sixth inning, and coach told me Silva’s going in,” Arel said. “I had complete confidence in him going in because I know he’s a hell of a pitcher. No one can really hit him when he’s on, and he was on today.”

For only the second time this season, the Black Bears managed to sweep a doubleheader, and after the game it was apparent the team needs the momentum from this win to carry on.

“It’s been really tough to come by,” Trimper said. “Down the stretch we just want to play our best baseball, you know, that’s what it is.”

Maine completes weekend sweep with Sunday win

Only a week ago, Della Fera was just another player stuck on the bench. On Sunday, he stepped up and turned into a hero for the Black Bears. Down by two runs, Della Fera hit a crucial three-run homer that helped lift Maine over UMass Lowell 7-4.

“I was just batting with two strikes and then I got the pitch that I liked,” Della Fera said. “I just kind of lit up and thought I could come through.”

Following Della Fera’s memorable performance, the Black Bears completed their weekend home sweep of UMass Lowell. With the victory, the Black Bears rise up to 15-27 on the year. They also now hold a 5-9 record within the America East. The loss pushes the River Hawks down to 17-23 on the season, with a 5-13 conference record.

In the contest, Maine managed to out hit UMass Lowell 11-6. Pena also had another tremendous game, with two hits and two runs in his four trips to the plate. Walking up to bat four times, Della Fera notched a hit and a run, while batting in a trio of runners. After spending so much of the season out of the batting order, Della Fera recognized that he had made the most of his starting opportunity.

“I mean that was huge, confidence is not really an issue for me, but that was huge and that felt good for sure,” Della Fera said.

Second-year pitcher Nick Kuzia got the start for UMass Lowell. He allowed five hits and two runs, while striking out four batters. Playing in five innings, second-year pitcher Chris Murphy opened the day on the mound for Maine. Though he forced five strikeouts, he also gave up four hits, three runs and four walks. Murphy has the perfect skill set needed to succeed, but at times he has struggled to control games.

“He’s kind of still on that secondary pitch command,” Trimper said. “That’s what it has been all year but he’s got a good enough fastball that every time he starts, he keeps us in the game.”

The Black Bears broke onto the scoreboard at the bottom of the first. Pena began by striking a double to center field, before being brought to third base by Casals. With a single to left field from Ridley, Pena advanced all the way to home plate, putting Maine up 1-0.

With a homerun at the top of the third, the River Hawks tied the game up. Stepping up to the plate with bases empty, Passatempo slung one of Murphy’s pitches to the left side of the field and over the fence. With his ninth homer of the season, Passatempo managed to knot the game up at 1-1.

The Black Bears responded by taking back the lead at the bottom of the fourth. On the first pitch of the inning, Ridley struck a ball over the fence and into the back hedges. With his fifth home run of the year, Ridley gave Maine the 2-1 advantage.

Not content with trailing, the River Hawks climbed back to steal the lead at the top of the fifth. Consolmagno reached first base on an error, then advanced to second following a walk forced by Passatempo. On a wild pitch, both Consolmagno and Passatempo made it to third and second, respectively. With a ground ball from first-year designated hitter Russell Olive, Consolmagno capped off his run. When first-year infielder Oscar Marchena singled to left field, Passatempo complete his journey around the diamond. With the two runs, UMass Lowell took the 3-2 advantage.

Emerson took over the pitching role at the top of the sixth, but the change didn’t help Maine. Prada quickly turned one of Emerson’s pitches into a double to right field. Then with a single up the middle from Strom, Prada used his speed to get into home plate. The lone run put the game at 4-2 in favor of UMass Lowell.

With the game getting out of reach, Maine needed great batting to stay competitive, and they got it at the bottom of the seventh. Third-year catcher Patrick Coughlin singled up the middle, before being brought to second by Kerbs. With two runners on bases, Della Fera walked up to the plate. In one powerful swing, Della Fera struck a home run, which allowed all three runners to score. The Black Bears weren’t finished however, as later on in the inning; Stypulkowski struck a fly ball which allowed Pena to complete a run. The four runs helped Maine take the 6-4 advantage.

The Black Bears put icing on the cake with a final run at the bottom of the eighth. Schwanz opened the inning by hitting a double. A ground ball from Coughlin then brought Schwanz to third. With a single to left field from Salcedo, Schwanz completed his run, putting the Black Bears up 7-4.

With one last inning left to play, the River Hawks couldn’t get anything going, as Maine preserved the 7-4 victory. After the game, the team’s confidence was at an all time high as they completed their first series sweep of the year.

“To win a series is always our goal, it doesn’t matter if you’re on the road or at home, you want to win a series. But to get a sweep is just a bonus,” Trimper said.

The Black Bears will have a chance to keep their momentum going as they head to Colby on Wednesday, May 4.