ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine baseball team has been working on developing a relentless offensive approach.
That means establishing a lead, then continuing to build on it throughout a game.
The Black Bears took the philosophy to heart over the weekend, amassing 52 hits and 42 runs while breezing to a four-game sweep of Iona College at Mahaney Diamond.
Coach Steve Trimper’s squad (17-12) capped the series Sunday with an 11-0 victory after taking Saturday’s doubleheader by scores of 17-12 and 14-4.
“This is good for our confidence,” said Bears senior Billy Cather, who went 9-for-17 in the series. “That’s one of the bigger things in baseball is being confident with our swings. I think we feel pretty good right now.”
UMaine battered coach Pat Carey’s struggling Iona squad (1-23-1), which nonetheless played hard and held its collective heads high throughout.
The Bears scored three or more runs in an inning 12 times in the series.
“One of our things we’ve been working on this year is keeping pressure on the other teams all the time,” said Trimper, whose team opens America East play with two weekend doubleheaders at Hartford.
“There’s nothing more back-breaking to a team than when you score four or five runs and all of a sudden a zero goes up [for them] and here comes one more [run], one more,” Trimper said. We need to do that.”
On Sunday, the Bears quickly ended any hopes Iona might salvage one game in the series when they scored nine runs in the first two innings.
Sophomore Joey Martin of Portland, who went 3-for-3, ignited a five-run first inning with a pop-fly single to left. Cather grounded a one-out single through the right side, then Myckie Lugbauer followed by lining a two-run, opposite-field double down the line in left.
“Coach Trimper’s really been helping me out a lot the past couple days, getting my swing back to where it used to be,” said Lugbauer, who was 8-for-13 with nine RBIs and eight runs scored in the four games. “I’m really just trying to keep my hands back and look the other way. It’s really helping out.”
Senior Kevin McAvoy of Brewer (5-for-11, 9 RBIs) doubled to center, extending his hitting streak to 18 games with his 200th career hit, before freshman Kyle Stilphen of Pittston hit an RBI groundout. Jarrett Lukas of Old Town roped a run-scoring single to center and Taylor Lewis laced an RBI double to center, making it 5-0.
“It was the weekend before conference [play] and we just wanted to go out there and play solid defense, get good pitching, hit the ball well.,” said Martin (6-for-13), who was back in the lineup after missing eight games with a shoulder injury.
Martin also posted two doubles in the finale, while Lugbauer and Lewis each added two singles with their doubles. The Bears finished with 17 hits.
Sophomore righthander Matt Jebb (4-1) worked six shutout innings and struck out six without issuing a walk.
“It was a little shaky last weekend [at Wagner] and I tried to really settle in [Sunday] and throw some good innings,” he said. “I got six with no runs, so I was happy.”
On Saturday, UMaine clouted six home runs among 25 hits, setting the tone for a convincing sweep.
Stilphen hit his first collegiate homer in the opener, then drilled another in Game 2. Both went to the opposite field.
“I’m getting comfortable at the plate again,” said Stilphen, a former Gardiner High star who returned to action a week ago after missing almost a month with a broken nose and broken orbital bone around his left eye suffered on a bad-hop grounder in Florida.
“I know I’m hitting the ball well when I’m hitting it with power the other way,” he said.
In the first game, the Bears built a commanding 14-run lead and then withstood a nine-run, ninth-inning rally by the Gaels.
Lukas led UMaine with a double, two singles and four RBIs. Freshman Lewis provided a two-run homer and an RBI double. Stilphen hit a three-run homer and a double.
Lugbauer added a two-run homer, a single and scored four runs. Danny Menendez stole six bases and leads the team (19).
Sophomore lefthander Kevin Scanlan (2-3) scattered five hits and three runs over the first six innings to pick up the victory.
“I felt like it was finally a good start,” Scanlan said. “I wasn’t throwing hard, but I could hit spots.”
Balsinde induced a game-ending popup to earn a one-pitch save, his third of the year.
Dean Dignelli sparked Iona with a monstrous three-run homer, a double and an RBI single. The Gaels finished with 14 hits, eight of which came in the ninth inning.
In Game 2, the Bears spotted the Gaels a 3-0 lead, then scored 14 unanswered runs.
McAvoy stroked a three-run triple and a double to spark UMaine, which benefited from six Iona errors.
Stilphen and Menendez whacked consecutive solo home runs to open the game and Ian Leisenheimer crushed a solo blast one out later to get the offense rolling. Menendez and Stilphen each added a single, while Menendez stole three bases and scored three times.
“We hit the ball well, we pitched well and that’s what’s going to happen,” McAvoy said of the blowout.
Freshman righthander Pat Quinn (3-0) scattered five hits and three unearned runs over five innings. He struck out eight, six on called strikes.
Dignelli tripled and singled for Iona, while Chris Burke had two singles and an RBI.