Black Bears swing into conference slate today

Posted April 10, 2009, at 10:44 p.m.

The University of Maine baseball team embarks on its second season today when it opens America East play with a noon doubleheader against Hartford at West Hartford, Conn.

Coach Steve Trimper’s Black Bears (17-12) are fired up to take on the Hawks after UMaine failed to qualify for postseason play in 2008.

“We’ve got to go out there and do well, we’ve got to take the series,” Trimper said. “We’ve got to go out there and play hard, play well.”

America East has altered its weekend format this season in an attempt to reduce the cost of travel and lodging. UMaine and Hartford will play a four-game series consisting of one seven-inning game and one nine-inning game each day.

“The format is seven [innings] and nine, seven and nine, in that order,” said Trimper.

In another wrinkle, if either of the seven-inning contests goes to eight or more innings, that will become the nine-inning game and the second game of that doubleheader will revert to a seven-inning contest.

Weather has already affected the conference schedule this spring as Hartford played only two of its four scheduled games last weekend at Binghamton.

This season, such situations are not being remedied by any conference rules. America East athletic directors voted to suspend the league’s minimum-games requirement for baseball due, again to financial concerns.

In recent years, teams were required to complete 21 of their scheduled 24 games to be eligible for postseason play. Now, there is no minimum.

“It is really all based on the extra cost people were having to incur to stay an extra day for games. It’s all just cost saving,” said Matt Bourque, America East’s associate commissioner.

He did point out it was possible for there to be a significant disparity in games played among some teams.

“That’s probably the one [policy change] that has the most potential of being an issue later in the year,” Bourque said. “The ADs have decided budget has to be the No. 1 thing. It might make us play some games in some conditions we might not otherwise.”

McAvoy, Menendez stay hot

Seniors Kevin McAvoy and Danny Menendez have been two keys in the Bears’ strong nonconference performance this season.

McAvoy, a right fielder from Brewer, carries an 18-game hitting streak into today’s contest at Hartford. He has hit safely in 24 of the 26 games he has started in 2009.

McAvoy leads UMaine with five home runs, 11 doubles, a .496 on-base percentage and a .667 slugging percentage.

Menendez, a second baseman from Miami, has been a terror on the bases for the Bears.

He leads the ballclub with 19 stolen bases, in 23 attempts. He also ranks second in the nation this week with 11 sacrifice bunts.

Menendez, who owns a nine-game hitting streak, has struck out only eight times in 97 at-bats, once every 12.1 at-bats.

BEAR TRACKS: Junior righthander Joe Miller is expected to be available to the Bears in a limited relief role this weekend. Miller (1-2, 8.38 ERA) has not pitched since March 13, when he experienced soreness in his right forearm. He underwent a magnetic resonance imaging procedure earlier this week which did not detect any major structural problems.

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