As beginning of the season road trips continue, the University of Maine baseball team has had a difficult time finding its footing. The jetlag, in addition to only playing outside for road games, has caused quite a few obstacles for the northern New England sluggers.
In Maine’s final game of a two game set against the University of Maryland, the Black Bears’ offense found life after fourth-year designated hitter Colin Ridley’s hit a homer in the top of the fifth inning. Maine was down 6-0 prior to Ridley’s solo homerun but it was enough to open up the floodgates for Maine’s offense that was able to tack on another five runs in the following two innings. In the sixth inning, second-year first baseman Joe Bramanti knocked in a three-run home run, driving in fourth-year second baseman Caleb Kerbs and first-year outfielder Mike Sabatine to shorten the gap to 6-4.
In the seventh frame, Kerbs and third-year first baseman Hernan Sardinas each batted in runs to tie the game at 6-6 going into the final two innings. In the bottom of the eighth, second-year reliever Matt Geoffrion was pitching his second inning of the game, but the Maryland batting order was able to shake off their mid-game woes and bring in three runs on Geoffrion, making the score 9-6. Geoffrion was still able to finish the game for the Black Bears, but was charged with the loss on the game.
Although the game did not finish the way Maine had hoped, they hang their hats on the fact that they were able to come back from a 6-0 hole, fighting back to make it a game to the end. Maine also got a strong relief performance from first-year pitcher Jacob Small who took over for third-year southpaw Trevor DeLaite in the bottom of the fifth. Small pitched two strong innings with four strikeouts, keeping Maine in the game and helping spark the mid-game comeback.
After the tough loss, the Black Bears turned their attention to another roadtrip, this time to Lynchburg, Virginia for a three game series against the Liberty University Flames over March 2 and 3.
In a double header on Saturday, the Black Bears took a 0-7 loss with second-year pitcher Peter Kemble on the mound to begin the series. Flames’ third-year starter Andrew McInvale kept the Black Bears’ offense in check, striking out six Black Bears and only allowing one man to get on base in six frames of action. Maine’s bullpen fared no better against the Flames’ offense, with second-year pitcher Matthew Pushard replacing Kemble in the bottom of the third inning. Pushard struck out first-year infielder Jaylen Guy, ending the inning. After a promising bottom of the fourth, in which the infield cleaned up on three consecutive pop flies, Maine’s defense began to crumble. Flames’ second-year first baseman Logan Mathieu took a fastball from Pushard long, hitting a double out to centerfield that scored second-year infielder Will Wagner. The next man up to bat, third-year shortstop Cam Locklear, hit a single out to left that drove Mathieu in for the score. Second-year pitcher Dillon Stimpson relieved Pushard in the seventh and gave up a single to Mathieu, which drove in two runs, wrapping up the game with a final score of 7-0.
Less than an hour after the end of game one, the Black Bears came back out onto the field and tightened up for a 2-3 loss against the Flames. The Black Bears’ two runs came in the fourth inning with Bramanti hitting a double to get himself on base, driving in fourth-year infielder Danny Casals. Bramanti ran in for a score on a double down the right field line by third-year shortstop Jeffrey Omohundro. Maine’s lone scoring inning wasn’t enough though, as a run late in the seventh inning by the Flames sealed the Black Bears’ loss.
Maine’s next series will be at Mississippi State University on March 8-10, where the Black Bears hope to turn around their season.