ORONO, Maine — Righthander Matt Jebb and the University of Maine baseball team were cruising Sunday afternoon during Game 2 of their America East baseball doubleheader against the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
UMBC’s Rick Phillips jolted the Black Bears back to reality, jacking a game-tying grand slam in the seventh inning.
UMaine responded when Jarrett Lukas of Old Town stroked a solo home run to lead off the eighth, lifting the Bears to a 5-4 victory to complete a four-game sweep of the Retrievers at Mahaney Diamond.
“We’ve got a lot of conference games left and any time we’re put in adversity like that, it’s always good to overcome,” said UMaine senior Kevin McAvoy of Brewer, who went 5-for-8 with four RBIs on Sunday and was 9-for-15 in the series.
UMaine had won Sunday’s opener 11-5 after sweeping Saturday’s twinbill, 6-1 and 7-3.
“We’re going to have to win close ballgames, no matter who [the opponent] is,” said UMaine coach Steve Trimper. “To get a sweep is huge.”
In Sunday’s finale, Lukas’ blast off a 2-1 pitch from loser Travis Pearson (1-3) helped the Bears (24-13, 7-1 AE) extend their winning streak to six games and take over first place in the league standings.
“I got a fastball, a little in, which is where I like it, and a little down,” Lukas said. “I managed to get the barrel on it.”
The shot bailed out Jebb (6-1), who allowed only an infield single through six innings. But in the seventh, singles by Wink Nolan and Shawn Retz and a walk to Tom Meaney opened the door for Phillips and UMBC (5-26, 1-11 AE).
Phillips lined a 2-1 pitch to the scoreboard in left-center.
“I just made one bad pitch out of 103 and gave up that grand slam,” said Jebb, who fanned four and walked one.
He retired the next three batters in order, then came back out to work the eighth.
“[Trimper] could have taken me out and called it a day for me but he gave me the chance to go back out there and I’m glad I put up that zero,” Jebb said.
Freshman Keith Bilodeau pitched a scoreless ninth.
Ian Leisenheimer singled three times, including an RBI hit in the third, and went 8-for-13 in the series. Myckie Lugbauer (1 RBI) singled twice and senior Danny Menendez set a UMaine single-game record with four stolen bases.
“We scored a lot of runs the first three games and then they tested us. It’s going to happen,’ Leisenheimer said. “We’re not going to be up by five runs every single game.”
In Sunday’s opener, freshman Pat Quinn struggled but held the Retrievers hitless for five-plus innings.
UMaine piled up 14 hits in support of the righty (5-0), who struck out seven and walked seven. He silenced the UMBC bats until the sixth when Shawn Retz grounded a single to left for his team’s first hit.
Two outs later, Dustin Ferguson singled. Justin Lamborn greeted reliever Alejandro Balsinde with an opposite-field, three-run homer to left-center.
Still up 6-4, UMaine tacked on five runs in the sixth to re-establish a comfortable lead.
McAvoy knocked in four runs with a double in the fourth and two-run singles in the fifth and sixth innings. Leisenheimer and Billy Cather each logged three singles. Cather scoring three times.
On Saturday, Leisenheimer knocked in five runs and UMaine turned seven double plays to aid solid pitching.
“We work so hard to turn double plays in practice,” Trimper said. “It gets pitchers out of trouble.”
UMaine won the opener behind Jonathan Balentina (3-0), then took the nightcap on the strength of seven strong innings by A.J. Bazdanes (3-0).
The seven-inning first game lasted one hour, 24 minutes.
In Saturday’s first game, sophomore lefty Balentina spread out seven singles by locating his fastball well. The Bears turned five double plays, including three that ended innings, behind him.
In the third, shortstop Tony Patane made a lunging stop of a Meaney grounder behind second base. He shoveled the ball with his glove to second baseman Menendez, who made the relay throw to first.
“[Assistant coach Jared] Holowaty, he really does hit us a lot of ground balls and makes us turn a lot double plays in practice and it really does pay off in games,” Patane said. “That gets us out of big innings.”
UMaine took the lead for good in the fourth inning against lefty Ed Bach (0-8). Cather led off by lacing a triple for his 200th career hit. Leisenheimer plated the eventual winning run with a groundout to first base. Lugbauer, McAvoy and Justin Leisenheimer singled to make it 3-0.
In Saturday’s second game, the Bears used a four-run seventh inning to break the game open for Bazdanes (3-0). The freshman scattered nine hits, striking out six and walking one, over seven innings.
UMaine clung to a 3-2 lead before tallying four runs with the aid of two UMBC errors. Joey Martin of Portland reached on an error, then Menendez beat out a bunt single.
Cather pushed the first run across with a sacrifice bunt on which the runners took second and third on a low throw by Ferguson. Ian Leisenheimer followed, lashing a two-run single inside the bag at third.
Lukas had an RBI single in the Bears’ two-run fourth.
Brad Brainer singled four times and Nolan homered with two singles among 14 UMBC hits. The Retrievers hit into two double plays.