While the University of Maine Black Bears baseball team is riding high at the top of the America East standings, coach Nick Derba’s team has still managed to carry their success outside of the conference. That sentiment was more than noticeable this past Thursday when the Thomas College Terriers visited Mahaney Diamond, and were sent back to Waterville to the tune of a seven-inning “mercy-ruled” 10-0 victory for the home side. Second-year slugger Jeremiah Jenkins sent a moonshot over the right field fence in the bottom of the seventh inning that pushed Maine’s 8-0 lead to ten, forcing umpires to call the game then and there.
You simply couldn’t have asked for better baseball weather in Orono when Thomas visited, as a light sprinkling of clouds dotted the outfield, portraying the facade of heaven as the afternoon sun filtered through the sky. After losing their first in-conference game last weekend against Binghamton, the Black Bears definitely had enough motivation to put the trains back on the tracks and right the course for the rest of the spring.
Third-year arm Tyler Nielsen threw nothing less than a gem, allowing just one hit on no earned runs through five innings while adding eight strikeouts to boot. Nielsen was undoubtedly on his game, as he managed to strike out the entire side for the Terriers at one point. The same could not be said for Thomas’ first-year starter Roy Clayton, as in three innings Clayton was responsible for three earned runs as well as four walks. The Black Bears took advantage of Clayton’s slow wind-up, stealing countless bases and allowing third-year utilityman Jake Rainess to steal home.
Rainess himself is worthy of some praise, having recently been announced as a nominee for the Brooks Wallace Award. The trophy is given to the nation’s best D1 shortstop, with Rainess being the only nominee from the entirety of America East. Rainess managed to have a solid day against Thomas as well, scoring three runs on two hits and working in a walk in between.
Jenkins was undoubtedly the star of the show, however. The second-year sledgehammer has belted an absurd 14 home runs so far this season, and his power only seems to be growing. Practically any ball that reaches the outfield off of Jenkins’ bat is one that strikes fear into the hearts of outfielders and pitchers, carrying insane velocity and height.
Third-year infielder Quinn McDaniel put forward a great showing as well, proving his invaluable consistency time after time. The second baseman bagged two hits and three runs like Rainess but was able to add to that with two hearty RBIs.
With Thomas being a D3 school from the North Atlantic Conference, umpires and coaches agreed upon a mercy rule to dissuade UMaine from running up the score, as well as allow for both teams to have an early night, given it was a midweek game and both sides had opponents they’d be playing the following day. Luckily for the Black Bears, they won’t be traveling far at all as they’ll welcome the Hartford Hawks to the Mahaney Diamond for an enthralling America East-laden weekend series.
Things are certainly looking bright for Coach Derba’s group, but it remains to be seen if the team will be able to carry this momentum for the length of the season. With the team playing as well as they have though, it feels like the Black Bears will be out on the hunt for the rest of the year.