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Black Bears sweep River Hawks for their first 6-0 start in conference play since 2012

In their home opening series, the University of Maine Black Bears faced off against the University of Massachusetts Lowell River Hawks on March 31 and April 1. Though the River Hawks played competitively it was the Black Bears who won all three games 9-3, 9-8 and 6-3, giving the team their first 6-0 start to conference play since 2012.

UMaine entered the series sitting at 9-11 though they were 3-0 in conference play and on a two-game win streak. On the other hand, UMass has struggled this year, entering the series at 4-17 with a 0-3 conference record.

Due to the Sunday game getting canceled, Friday turned into a doubleheader, with the first game being a seven-inning match. The Black Bears got going after fourth-year utility player Jake Rainess drew a walk with the bases loaded, bringing third-year outfielder Colin Plante home. This would just be the beginning, however, as following Plante’s run, third-year second baseman Quinn McDaniel drove home two runs on an RBI single. Second-year first baseman Jeremiah Jenkins followed up by doing the same on a two-RBI single of his own. Jenkins then reached home thanks to an error from third-year shortstop Fritz Genther, making it six runs scored in just the second inning with the score 6-0 after two.

UMaine struck once more in the fifth when fifth-year third baseman Dylan McNary hit a triple, scoring fourth-year catcher Ryan Turenne. McNary scored off a single from Rainess. After a wild pitch, Rainess came home thanks to a sac fly making it 9-0 after five. While the River Hawks scored three runs in the seventh inning, they never posed a serious threat as the Black Bears won 9-3.

Photo by Liv Schanck

Second-year pitcher Colin Fitzgerald (1-0) picked up the win as he nearly pitched a full-game shutout until the final inning. River Hawks ace, fifth-year pitcher Matt Draper (1-4), struggled for the Falcons as he gave up eight runs throughout five innings.

In game two, UMass scored first in the second when Genther hit a fair ball right down the right-field line for a triple. Genther got home after fifth-year outfielder Gerry Siracusa’s chopper to second was mishandled and resulted in a throwing error, giving UMass a 1-0 lead that would not last long.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Black Bear offense exploded, scoring eight runs with two outs. First-year catcher Dean O’Neill got the scoring going as he sent the ball into center field, resulting in an RBI triple and bringing two runs in. Two batters later, McNary hammered a three-run home run into center field, bringing the lead to six. UMaine scored their final runs of the inning when fourth-year infielder Connor Goodman’s double to the left corner made the score 8-1.

UMass was not about to go down quietly, though, as they started to chip away at the deficit in the fifth. Second-year outfielder Alex Luccini scored first as he hit a triple, bringing second-year outfielder Jacob Humphrey home. Two batters later, the River Hawks struck again as fifth-year outfielder Siracusa’s single brought Genther home, making it an 8-3 game heading into the sixth.

In the sixth, the Black Bears’ bullpen inconsistencies showed. After the starter second-year Caleb Leys was pulled, everything went downhill. Second-year relief pitcher Ryan Scott walked his first two batters and was pulled in favor of first-year Blaine Cockburn. The quick hook became costly as he surrendered three runs in the sixth and one in the seventh, tying the game at eight.

Photo by Liv Schanck

In the bottom of the eighth, the Black Bear offense came through when Jenkins’s single got to deep left field, allowing Rainess to score from second, regaining the lead. At the top of the eighth, fifth-year closer Justin Baeyens (1-1) came in and pitched two full innings. He allowed just one hit and no runs, crucially contributing to a win for UMaine.

Leys (1-0) pitched five innings while allowing three runs, four hits, and four walks. First-year pitcher Jacob Jette (1-2) pitched three innings but gave up eight runs on six hits to just four strikeouts.

Saturday started right where Friday left off for the Black Bears as in the bottom of the first, Jenkins hammered a two-run home run into center field, giving the Black Bears a two-run lead. The River Hawks would score their first in the third as Luccini’s single made it a one-score game.

In the fifth, UMass tied the game at two when Siracusa’s single brought second-year outfielder Conor Kelly home. This would be followed by both teams trading runs, starting with UMaine as McDaniel hit a solo home run to center field that the River Hawks matched in the sixth with fourth-year catcher Ryan Proto’s double to left field.

In the bottom of the sixth, second-year Black Bears infielder Myles Sargent retook the lead as his line drive stayed fair down the right-field line, bringing Plante home. Soon after, Sargent was brought home when McNary hit a two-run home run to center field, bringing the Black Bears’ lead to three where they were able to put the game away from there.

Third-year pitcher Noah Lewis (3-1) picked up the win, pitching eight innings and allowing three runs on six hits, two walks and six strikeouts. Second-year pitcher Andrew Chevarie picked up his first save in the ninth inning. First-year pitcher Michael Simes (0-2) picked up the loss in relief duty.

UMaine will stay home this weekend as they face off against the University of Albany Great Danes April 7 to 9.

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