ORONO, Maine — The hardy fans who braved Sunday’s cold and wind at refurbished Mahaney Diamond received a glimpse of one University of Maine baseball player’s potential.
The doubleheader marked the home debut of freshman Taylor Lewis.
The outfielder from Montville, Conn., showed off his outstanding speed, legging out two triples in the Black Bears’ 11-2 victory over Sacred Heart in Game 1.
“It felt really good,” said the 6-foot, 200-pounder. “I had a little trouble in Florida, just wasn’t finding the gaps, was hitting the ball here and there. [Sunday] was great. I was seeing the ball and it was really coming off the bat even though the wind was blowing in.”
Lewis, who went into the series batting .105 (2-for-19), went 3-for-6 with four RBIs and three runs scored in Sunday’s doubleheader sweep.
“I really tried to get Taylor some playing time because he is an absolute specimen if you watch him run,” said UMaine coach Steve Trimper. “He’s going to be a great player here.”
Lewis showed his versatility in the opener. In the second inning, the lefthanded hitter pulled a ball inside the first-base bag and raced around to third for an RBI triple.
He worked a walk in the fourth, then came up in the seventh and lined an opposite-field shot to left-center. Three runs scored on his second triple, which tied a school single-game record.
“We need him to get going,” Trimper said. “He’d be a great No. 8 or 9 hitter for us.”
Trimper credited Lewis with working hard to revamp his swing, especially during the last two weeks in order to be a more effective hitter at the college level.
“I’ve changed my swing a lot since I came here,” Lewis said.
“I was going long with my swing. He [Trimper] just helped me out and changed my swing a lot. I’ve been hitting in the cages whenever I have free time.”
Lewis was a highly regarded football running back who was being recruited (likely projected as a safety) by the likes of Boston College. However, he opted to pursue baseball at UMaine.
“I was being recruited by some schools for football, but when I came up here and saw the new facilities that they were having and I met with coach Trimper, I made my decision to go baseball,” Lewis said. “Plus, I wanted to keep my body healthy.”
Lewis actually had contemplated trying to play two sports for the Black Bears.
“When I came here coach Trimper said that I could probably play both,” Lewis said. “I was going to see how this [baseball] season went, but it’s a lot of work. I think I’m just going to stay with one sport.”
Gibson, Turner to leave UMaine
Kelley Gibson and Catherria Turner, two members of the UMaine women’s basketball coaching staff this season, will not return to the program next winter.
Head coach Cindy Blodgett confirmed Tuesday that both women are seeking other coaching opportunities.
Gibson, who played at Maryland and in the WNBA, departs after spending two seasons in Orono. She worked with the Bears’ guards.
“I appreciate Kelley being here for two years and helping the program grow,” Blodgett said.
Turner spent the 2008-09 season with UMaine. The former Oklahoma State player previously coached at Simpson College (Iowa).
“Catherria was very young and enthusiastic and we enjoyed having her here,” Blodgett said.
Blodgett said she will begin looking for the women’s successors in the near future. She views the staff changes as part of the process and said they can be beneficial.
“The part of it that is really positive is, our players are going to be exposed to a lot of different people,” Blodgett said. “People come, their paths cross and you’re learning from each other.”
UMaine assistant Justin Rees is expected to stay on for a third season.
UM track teams 5th, 6th in poll
The UMaine spring track and field teams have been picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the America East preseason coaches poll.
The Black Bear women have been picked for fifth and the men sixth while the preseason favorites are the Boston University women and the Albany men.
The Albany Great Danes are aiming for their fifth consecutive league men’s title.