ORONO, Maine — For the second time in two homestands this season, the new FieldTurf was a key component of the overall story at Mahaney Diamond.
The University of Maine shrugged off a constant light rain that fell on the area Friday afternoon, pounding out 16 hits on its way to a resounding 17-3 baseball victory over Iona College of New Rochelle, N.Y.
The teams slogged through 6½ innings and waited through a 22-minute rain delay before the game was called.
“Amazing,” said UMaine head coach Steve Trimper after witnessing another triumph of the FieldTurf over early spring Maine weather.
“With that surface, you can play right through rain. That’s a testament to it,” he said.
The teams are slated to play a 1 p.m. doubleheader today and a single game Sunday at 1 p.m.
Although the turf was soaked and the ball wet much of the time, the game was played without incident. Just the pitcher’s mound, the only part of the field that consists of soil, needed some drying agent applied every couple of innings to maintain good footing.
“The weather wasn’t fun, but it didn’t affect me at all,” said Bears freshman righthander A.J. Bazdanes (2-0), who pointed out he endured some poor-weather games playing high school ball in New Hampshire.
The conditions didn’t deter UMaine (14-12) from enjoying its biggest offensive game of the season thus far. Senior center fielder Billy Cather spearheaded the offense by going 5-for-5 with a home run, two doubles, four runs scored and two RBIs.
The hosts also played errorless ball in the field.
“We did a great job today. We were more intense, guys were ready to go and we did everything right,” Trimper said. “It wasn’t an easy day to play, for both teams, but we hit the ball, made no errors and our pitchers threw strikes for the most part.”
The Bears wound up with 16 hits, eight for extra bases, including three home runs.
Cather singled and scored in the first inning, doubled in the second and scorched a solo home run in the Bears’ six-run third inning. He kept his perfect day going when he singled and scored in the fifth and lined an RBI double in the sixth.
“It’s easy, like coach says, to go play in 70 degrees and sunny, but these are the games you really learn who you are and learn what you can do,” Cather said. “You really just have to tough it out more than your opponent.”
Eight of the Bears’ nine starters posted at least one hit. Junior catcher Myckie Lugbauer, who had been in a 1-for-18 slump the previous five games, launched a three-run homer, walked and scored, doubled and scored and hit an RBI double in four trips.
Ian Leisenheimer singled twice with two RBIs, Joey Martin of Portland singled twice with an RBI and Tony Patane jacked a grand slam.
Cather said the tradeoff between being able to play at home, albeit in the rain, is well worth it for the Bears.
“That’s great that we have this, because we get to be home this weekend,” he said. “Even though it’s raining, I still love it.”
Bazdanes wasn’t ultra sharp, but spread out six hits through six innings in his third collegiate start. He struck out five, walked two and hit a batter.
Opponents are now hitting only .185 against Bazdanes.
“I didn’t have my fastball today, but my curveball, my cutter and my changeup were alright,” said Bazdanes, who was pleased with all the run support his teammates provided.
Dean Dignelli paced Iona (1-20-1) with an RBI double and a long solo home run beyond the 400-foot mark in center field.
UMaine got all the runs it would need in the first inning against Sean Darsee (0-1). George Tager walked, Danny Menendez flared a single to right field and Cather grounded a single to right to load the bases.
Leisenheimer plated the first run with a sacrifice fly, then Lugbauer launched an opposite-field homer to left.
“This was a great day to hit,” Cather said, “the wind was blowing out hard and the turf was real slick, so no matter where you put the ball today, it was going to drop, pretty much.”