Over the weekend of Feb. 28 to March 1, the University of Maine’s baseball team traveled down to Louisiana for a four-game series against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. The first two games of the series were within winning range, with a pitching duel and an offensive battle, respectively, but the final two games were two that the Black Bears would probably like to get back.
Starting game one for Maine, second-year ace Nicholas Sinacola stood tall on the mound, striking out eight batters and allowing only four runs over six innings. This strong start by the Black Bears’ defense, their best of the weekend, was unable to be complemented by run support on the offensive side, with their lone run scored by third-year right fielder Alex McKenney after an RBI single from first-year second baseman Connor Goodman in the second inning. Third-year relief pitcher Dillon Stimpson took over for Sinacola for the final innings and allowed one lone run, but Maine’s cold bats on offense led to a 5-1 loss to the Bulldogs in game one.
In the first of their two games on Saturday, third-year pitcher Matthew Pushard took the mound for Maine and faced some hefty offensive efforts from the Bulldogs. Maine had a quick top of the first, with three batters grounding out consecutively, bringing Pushard onto the mound. He started off his afternoon strong, striking out his first two batters, but then struck fourth-year outfielder Parker Bates with a pitch, giving the Bulldogs a runner on base. Bates stole second shortly thereafter, and third-year right fielder Steele Netterville cranked a homer off of Pushard, scoring two runs for the Bulldogs in the first inning. Following that, Pushard regained his composure and finished off the Bulldogs’ line up by striking out the next batter.
Facing true heat early in the game, the Black Bears’ offensive lineup was called into action, and they answered with strong performances. Fourth-year center-fielder Hernen Sardinas went two for five at the plate with a home run and a double, as well as four RBIs. But the Black Bears’ offense didn’t let Sardinas carry all the action. Third-year third baseman Joe Bramanti also had himself a game, going two for four with a double and two RBIs, and designated hitter Ryan Turenne went two for four with two RBIs and a deep homer out of right field. Aside from the aforementioned players who were positioned at the top of the batting order, the rest of the offense was fairly silent. For every run the Black Bears sent in, it seemed the Bulldogs replied in the bottom of the inning with two of their own. By the final strikeout of the top of the ninth, the Bulldogs had secured themselves a 15-10 victory.
Though Maine was unable to secure the victory in their contest against Louisiana Tech, the Black Bears’ performance on both sides of the ball showed some chemistry they’ve been lacking this season.
Moving forward to their second contest of the day, the Black Bears faced an uphill battle, to say the least. As Maine worked through their rotation, first-year pitcher Colton Carson had his number called to start on the mound for Maine, but was pulled before the end of the inning. Carson walked two batters before being taken yard by Netterville, who scored three runs. Carson drilled his next batter on the first pitch, visibly having lost his vibe on the mound.
Second-year pitcher Jacob Small replaced Carson on the mound and closed out the inning, but was pulled from the rotation prior to the second. First-year pitcher Andrew Ruggiero stepped onto the mound for Maine, and a slew of errors by the infield and errant pitches by Ruggiero sank the Black Bears into an 8-0 hole they would not recover from. Maine’s offense only managed to get three men on base throughout the entire game, with many of Maine’s batters grounding out in the infield.
For what it’s worth, it is a lot to have these players play 18 innings in just one day, moreover 27 innings in less than 48 hours, not including the long trip from Maine to Louisiana.
Maine ended up losing the second game Saturday evening by a final score of 19-0. The final game of the series on Sunday was another tough pill for the Black Bears to swallow as they lost that game by a final score of 26-3. McKenney and Turenne each contributed a home run, but the lineup was unable to catch a rhythm after being thoroughly handled the previous day.
The Black Bears will look to shake off this weekend and try to put up their first win of the season next weekend when they head to Springfield, Missouri to take on Missouri State University.