The Black Bears took the first game of a doubleheader in their opening series against the University of Hartford at the Mahaney Diamond on Saturday, April 8, winning 1-0.
Spectacular pitching was the storyline for both teams in the first game, as third-year right hander Justin Courtney went toe to toe with the Hawks’ fourth-year right hander Brian Stepniak. The two pitchers combined to allow nine baserunners (five hits, four walks). For Courtney, this was the best start of the season for him, especially when a couple of bad innings skew the statistics. But he knows that there is always another level to go.
“A couple of bad innings had skyrocketed my numbers a little bit, but it’s all about sticking to the process. It felt good to put it all together, go eight strong innings. But there’s always something more to want out of it,” Courtney said.
Something had to give and in the bottom of the ninth, it happened. Fourth-year right fielder Tyler Schwanz led off with a walk, then fourth-year left fielder Lou Della Fera bunted him over. Second-year Caleb Kerbs then reached on an infield single to the shortstop. First-year reliever Drew Farkas came in and promptly gave up a single to third-year designated hitter Jonathan Bennett to load the bases. With first-year first baseman Hernan Sardinas at the plate, Farkas uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Schwanz to scamper home for the winning run.
Courtney had gone eight innings on the afternoon, giving up two hits and two walks while striking out five. First-year right hander Cody Lawyerson pitched a flawless ninth to pick up the win for the Black Bears. Stepniak gave up three hits and two walks, while striking out three over seven innings for Hartford.
Black Bears win second game of Saturday’s doubleheader
Game two did not require nearly as much waiting time for a run to score. After recording a quick out, Normandeau, who got the nod to start the game gave up a single to Hartford fourth-year first baseman David MacKinnon, followed by a triple by third-year catcher Erik Ostberg, putting the Hawks up 1-0. After recording the second out, Ostberg would scamper home on a passed ball charged to Bennett, giving the Hawks a 2-0 lead.
The Black Bears would answer back in the bottom half of the inning. Second-year third baseman Danny Casals drew a walk, then stole second. With one out, third-year designated hitter Christopher Bec singled to left, moving Casals to third. Bec would then steal second, putting runners on second and third with one out. After a strikeout for the second out and a walk to load the bases, Kerbs ripped a single vto left, scoring Casals and Bec to knot the game at 2-2.
Maine would add another run in the third, as Bec started the inning with a triple. After a walk, Bennett tagged a sacrifice fly, allowing Bec to score and the Black Bears to take a 3-2.
Hartford had a chance to tie the game in the top of the fourth. Second-year left fielder Chris Sullivan singled to start the inning. He would advance to second, but would come out after coming up lame sliding into second. After first-year Jackson Olson came in, third-year third baseman TJ Ward singled him over to third. First-year catcher Bryce Ramsay hit a fly ball that looked deep enough to score Olson, but Maine’s center fielder, third year Brandon Vicens, gunned him down to preserve.
Normandeau settled in after a shaky start, going six innings while giving up the two runs on nine hits with a walk and no strikeouts. Fourth-year right hander Jeff Gelinas entered in the seventh and nailed down the save, despite issuing two walks.
All four of the pitchers that were in the two games for the Black Bears are Mainers, a little fact that Head Coach Nick Derba is sure helped with the weather.
“It’s like these guys have snow in their veins,” Derba said. “Seriously though, these kids have played in these kinds of conditions for years, they knew what they needed to do to get ready for these games and they were tough.”
Both teams will be back in action on Sunday, April 9, to wrap up the three game set.