The University of Maine’s baseball team continues their spring road trip, heading down to Buies Creek, North Carolina for a three-game set against Villanova, Purdue and Campbell University in the Campbell Invitational Tournament.
Maine started off the weekend series against the Villanova Wildcats, with second-year ace Nicholas Sinacola starting on the mound for the Black Bears. Starting off the action for Maine on offense, second-year catcher Colby Emmertz grounded out to third after drawing a 2-2 count against Wildcats third-year right-handed ace Jimmy Kingsbury. Maine botched the rest of the inning against Kingsbury, with fourth-year infielder Hernen Sardinas flying out in the infield and fourth-year catcher Cody Pasic being struck out looking.
Sinacola walked his first batter but followed up with a clean strikeout of third-year shortstop Pat O’Neill. A reach on a fielder’s choice and an easy ground out to first base closed up the first frame of action. Maine’s bats heated up in their next offensive frame, as third-year pitcher Alex McKenney took a Kingsbury fastball deep into center, but the Wildcats outfield quickly rallied to the ball, limiting McKenney to a single. First-year outfielder Carlos Linares took another Kingsbury pitch deep to center, but the now prepared Wildcats outfield tracked the ball down and connected with fourth-year second baseman Tim Lilly to tag McKenney out at second. Maine’s offense continued to feed the defense chip shots directly in their line of sight, making quick work of the rest of the inning.
Sinacola took back to the mound and tore through the Wildcats lineup, striking out three and walking one. Maine’s offense couldn’t generate anything in the top of the third, with three Black Bears grounding out to O’Neill. Neither team managed to get around the bases in the fourth frame, but the Black Bears’ bats weren’t going to be quiet the entire night. Second-year outfielder Jordan Glazer stepped up to the plate first for Maine, and after watching two strikes fly by, cracked an easy single down the left-field line. Linares went down swinging, and an errant pitch from Kingsbury had fourth-year infielder Jeffrey Omohundro walking to first. With Glazer on second and Omohundro on base as well, Kingsbury seemed shaken by the change of pace, and with a hefty count, walked Emmertz to load up the bases for the Black Bears. Sardinas cleaned up beautifully for Maine, cranking a double out to center after collecting a full count against Kingsbury. Omohundro and Glazer both tore around the bases, scoring with ease to give Maine the 2-0 lead.
Unfortunately, the Black Bears were unable to maintain their lead for even a full-frame, as the Wildcats offense sparked in the fifth inning. After two quick outs, Sinacola hit a rough patch, walking third-year outfielder Chris Rotondo and hitting O’Neill with a pitch. With two men on base, Sinacola’s arm seemed to tire, as three consecutive Villanova batters took him the distance, scoring Rotondo, O’Neill, and second-year infielder Nick Lorusso. The Wildcats locked down Maine’s offense moving forward, striking out a multitude of batters while also getting the Black Bears to take chops at bad pitches, leading to easy ground outs and pop flies. The Wildcats put the icing on the cake in the bottom of the seventh, with Lorusso cranking a double out to center, and a slew of Wildcats batters cranking out a multitude of singles against third-year pitcher Matt Geoffrion, finishing the inning 7-2. That would be the final score for the contest, as Maine continues the search for their first victory of the season.
Maine’s performance against Villanova, while admirable, was a bit disheartening to the team, and they were quickly buried by the Purdue University Boilermakers in their follow up the contest at 2 p.m. on the same day. Third-year pitcher Matthew Pushard took the mound for Maine, and had a solid first frame, striking out his first batter and giving the infield easy clean up for the next two outs to close the top of the first. Three Black Bears consecutively hit deep shots, but Purdue’s outfielders tracked down all three. In the top of the second, the Boilermakers cracked Pushard, as he walked two batters and hit two others with errant pitches. Purdue’s two singles and lone double were enough to work in four runs, with help from Pushard’s weak inning. Maine would score two runs in the bottom of the sixth, with McKenney stealing bases and Sardinas scoring on McKenney’s initial single, but they couldn’t muster the offensive firepower to compete with the Boilermakers. The Black Bears fell 6-2 and had only one contest left in the Campbell Tournament to prove themselves, and it was against the hosts themselves.
Campbell went up 5-0 by the fourth inning, working first-year pitcher Colton Carson through the lineup with difficulty. Maine’s strong infield play kept them in contention early in the game, but by the fourth, Campbell was in Carson’s head. First-year pitcher Lawson Harrill took one of Carson’s pitches deep to right field for a triple and third-year catcher Ryan Parquette followed up with a homer to left field. A slew of singles and a triple from the remainder of Campbell’s offensive rotation were enough to bury the Black Bears by the top of the fifth. Maine fell once more by a score of 6-2 and left the tournament still winless on the regular season.
The Black Bears will look to shake off the winless weekend as they hit the road once again to Ruston, Louisiana to take on Louisiana Tech in a three-game series. Perhaps a warmer location than their previous destinations will help get the bats alive for UMaine. There is still plenty of time for the Black Bears to right the ship before the regular season gets into full swing.