The University of Maine Black Bears softball team traveled to Albany, New York, to take on the University of Albany Great Danes over the weekend of April 7 and 8. After the weather changed the original plan of a Friday-Saturday-Sunday series, it was planned to be a three-game series with a game on Saturday afternoon and a Sunday doubleheader. However, the second game on Sunday ended up being canceled due to inclement weather. Despite the shortened schedule, the series still lived up to expectations.
The first pitch on Saturday was set for 2:30 p.m. As the away team, Maine was up at the plate first. Fourth-year outfielder Erika Leonard and third-year infielder Laurine German led off the first inning with a single apiece, but the Black Bears could not capitalize with the runners on base, and their half of the inning ended. Fourth-year pitcher Annie Kennedy took the mound for the Black Bears with a record of 6-3 on the season. Also boasting an impressive ERA of 1.66, Kennedy showed her stuff early on forcing three straight groundouts from the Great Danes in the bottom of the first. Maine was scoreless in the top of the second, and Albany led off the bottom of the second with a single, but Maine pulled off a textbook 6-4-3 double play and then Kennedy struck out the third batter to end the inning.
Fourth-year first baseman Kristen Niland got the scoring going for Maine with a two-run shot in the top of the fourth, her first homer of the season, giving the Black Bears a 2-0 lead. Kennedy continued to pitch lights out, letting up only three hits in five innings while striking out five as well. In the bottom of the fifth, the Great Danes finally got on the board with a game-tying double from third-year infielder Chelsea Henige. The Black Bears had a chance to score the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh but couldn’t pull through. Kennedy retired the side to head to extras.
Kennedy was replaced by first-year pitcher Kyleigh O’Donnell. Albany came up in the bottom of the eighth and singled home the game-winning run, and the game ended with Albany up 3-2.
Black Bears win Game 2
Game 2 of the series began at noon on Sunday. The Black Bears got the offense going early, with a walk and a steal from Leonard, an RBI single from third-year infielder Maddie Decker, back-to-back walks from third-year infielder Alyssa Derrick and Niland and a sac fly from third-year infielder Meghan Royle. O’Donnell took the start for the Black Bears with a comfortable three-run cushion in the bottom of the first, where she retired the side.
In the bottom of the third, Albany got themselves on the board with a two-RBI double from third-year infielder Kelly Spear. The bottom of the fifth came up with the score still at 3-2, advantage Black Bears. Fourth-year outfielder Rachel Carlson got on base to start the inning, and she was doubled home by Niland to make it 4-2 heading into the sixth.
The Great Danes added another run in the sixth to cut it to 4-3, but O’Donnell made sure she got out of the inning with no further damage by making a nasty diving catch. Maine went scoreless in the top of the seventh, and after O’Donnell issued a walk to start the bottom of the final inning, Kennedy was sent in to close it out. With a runner on third, the Great Danes could not bring her home, and the game ended with a final score of 4-2 Black Bears.
Due to the second game of the doubleheader being canceled, the Black Bears play next against UMass-Lowell at home on April 11, another doubleheader. First pitch for Game 1 is at 2 p.m. at Kessock Field, and first pitch for Game 2 is at 4:30 p.m. Albany will go on to play on Saturday, April 14 against Hartford, in Hartford, Conn.