After a rough 2-10 start to the season for the University of Maine softball team, the Black Bears have rebounded to go 5-3 in their last eight games.
How you start a season is important, but how you end it has even more impact. Despite an overall record of 7-13, the Black Bears’ in-conference record sits at 4-2. That leaves the team tied for second in the conference, following only Stony Brook who hashave remained undefeated in conference games. For a season that seemed to be going off the rails in March, the team looks like they’re to recouping their losses in order to show up strong for the America East conference in May.
This past weekend on April 10 and 11, Maine won their second straight series against an America East opponent. Maine went on to win two of three games against the University of Hartford.
The first inning of the first game saw Maine coming hot out of the gates. Second-year first baseman Izzy Nieblas kicked off the scoring by driving in third-year left fielder Emma Larke with a single. Third-year shortstop Kelby Drews followed this up with a double that drove in two runs to make it 3-0. Third-year catcher Keely Clark would drive in Drews to make the score 4-0 Maine after one inning. Fourth-year pitcher Kyleigh O’Donnell’s performance allowed Maine to ride that first inning explosion to a 5-2 victory. O’Donnell struck out nine batters and only surrendered two runs while pitching a complete game.
The second game on Saturday saw the script flip, and this time Hartford blew out Maine 10-1 in a shortened five-inning game. Maine’s lone run came in the first inning.
Nieblas hit a sac fly, driving in third-year outfielder Kya Enos, to tie the game 1-1. The game got away from Maine in the third inning when Hartford put up four runs. The competition snowballed for Maine and was followed by a five-run fourth inning for Hartford. The Black Bears just could not seem to get it going offensively, managing only four hits in the game.
In the third and final game of the series, O’Donnell took to the mound and proved to be a dominant force. This time she struck out eight batters and only allowed one earned run. This performance from O’Donnell meant the offense did not have to do much for Maine to earn the win.
Kelby Drews scored the first run of the game in the fourth inning, hitting a solo home run to give Maine a 1-0 lead. This along with an RBI double by Clark saw Maine take a 2-1 lead after four innings. Enos added a run with a triple to put Maine up 3-1 in the fifth inning. The lone run for Hartford came in the sixth on a sac fly, but O’Donnell followed up her lone blemish by shutting down four straight batters to secure the win for Maine.
In the middle of the week, Maine traveled to Massachusetts to take on the University of Massachusetts Amherst. A rare mid-week doubleheader on a Tuesday resulted in a split, with UMass winning the first game and Maine taking the second. Both games were high scoring, with UMass outscoring Maine 19-15 across the two games.
The first game saw UMass ride an eight-run fifth inning to a 15-6 win. Second-year pitcher Caitlyn Fallon was tasked with slowing down the hot offense displayed by UMass in the second game of the doubleheader, and she did well. Despite a rocky second inning for Fallon, she stayed in the game and helped cool the UMass bats.
Maine;’s scoring was led by third-year outfielder Brianna Neely and Larke — both totaled three RBIs in Maine’s 9-4 win against UMass Amherst. Despite scoring 15 runs in the two games, Maine only hit two home runs on Tuesday. Both home runs came from Kelby Drews who hit one in each game. Drews totaled four RBIs in the two games and holds the team lead with six home runs on the season.
Up next for the Black Bears is a four game weekend series on the road in New York against Binghamton University. They will face Binghamton in two doubleheaders on Saturday, April 17, and Sunday, April 18.
Hopefully, Maine can continue their newfound success in the month of April to help propel them to a spot in the America East tournament.