WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — In a game that offered numerous scoring opportunities, it was Hartford that got the clutch hit with the game on the line.
Andy Drexel singled through the middle with two out in the bottom of the 11th inning Sunday evening, lifting the Hawks to a 7-6 victory in the second game of their America East baseball doubleheader against the University of Maine at the Hartford Baseball Field.
“We’ve been doing that this year lately, coming back in the sixth, seventh, eighth [innings]. We’ve been battling all year,” Drexel said.
The Black Bears eked out a 2-1 victory in Sunday’s opener, a scheduled seven-inning contest.
UMaine (18-13, 1-1 AE) squares off against Hartford (6-16, 1-3 AE) again today in a 1 p.m. doubleheader.
“It was great that we came back. We would have liked to get the win, but we’ve got to come out tomorrow and try to get as many wins as we can,” said UMaine coach Steve Trimper.
In the first game, Jonathan Balentina pitched three innings of hitless relief and the Bears rallied for single runs in the sixth and seventh innings to pull out the victory.
“I’m feeling pretty good this year,” Balentina said, “love to go out there every time and do the job. Coming out of the bullpen, I just throw all-out, just do the best I can with what I’ve got.”
The sophomore lefthander settled things down after an inconsistent start by starter Kevin Scanlan. Balentina retired the first six batters he faced, then worked around an error and a hit batsman in the sixth.
Alejandro Balsinde escaped a seventh-inning jam, inducing a game-ending 5-3 double-play grounder to earn his fourth save.
“Everybody pitched good today. They kept us in the games to give us a chance to win,” said Bears senior Danny Menendez.
UMaine mounted its winning rally in the seventh against Hawks relievers Bob Rogers and Cory Beahm.
Tony Patane led off and reached on an error by shortstop Brady Stouffer. Joey Martin of Portland then lined a single to left-center, putting runners at the corners with nobody out.
Beahm replaced Rogers and Menendez followed with a fly ball to right that was dropped by Rodger Wilmot, allowing the eventual winning run to score. Beahm struck out three of the next four batters to minimize the damage.
“In the first game it took everybody to get those two runs and that was a huge win to get us going in the conference,” Menendez said.
In the Hartford seventh, Stouffer lined a one-out single to left and took second when Jarrett Lukas of Old Town pulled Justin Leisenheimer off first with his throw. However, Mike Amendola grounded to Lukas for a 5-3 double play.
Hartford grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Ben Sobocinski flared a single to center and eventually was walked in.
UMaine tied it in the sixth inning when Myckie Lugbauer grounded a single to right, moved up two bases on wild pitches by Sobocinski, and scored when Lukas hustled down to first to narrowly avoid being doubled up on his grounder to shortstop.
In the second game, Drexel posted his game-winning hit after going 0-for-7 prior to the at-bat. The Bears had intentionally walked Mike Amendola to create a force play, bringing Drexel to the plate.
“I would have walked Mike, too. He’s almost batting .500,” Drexel said. “He kind of hung it on the outside corner and I was just trying to put it in play somewhere, hit it hard.”
After getting the final out in the 10th, Balsinde (1-1) walked No. 9 batter Siano to start the 11th. He moved up on Andy Stouffer’s sacrifice bunt and later scored on Drexel’s single.
Trailing 5-2, UMaine rallied to tie the game in the eighth. Ian Leisenheimer lined a single to right-center and, one out later, Justin Leisenheimer roped a double to center field.
That brought up freshman Kyle Stilphen of Pittston, who pounded an 0-1 pitch from starter Weston Szymanski over the right-field fence for a game-tying, three-run homer.
“It was a momentum-builder,” Trimper said. “He’s a good player and he’s really starting to come into his own a little bit.”
Hartford went back on top in the bottom of the inning on Drew Sgro’s RBI single off Bears reliever Keith Bilodeau, but UMaine countered in the ninth.
Martin singled, advanced on a wild pitch and eventually scored on a fielder’s choice grounder by Lugbauer.
“We were really scrapping and clawing,” Trimper said of the Bears’ resilience.