ORONO, Maien — Maybe they spent too much time watching Saturday’s Red Sox-Yankees marathon, but after back-to-back pitchers’ duels on Saturday, the University of Maine’s softball series against Albany switched to a slugfest on Sunday.
“That’s what we all said. We figured it would be a another low-scoring game, but it was a battle of the hitters today,” said Albany ace Leah McIntosh.
McIntosh took both losses Saturday as she was outdueled 1-0 by Maine’s Jenna Balent in the first game and then as a reliever during Maine’s 4-3 victory in its doubleheader sweep.
“No pitcher likes to go with three L’s in a weekend. I mean, you don’t feel too good about yourself if that happens,” said McIntosh, now 18-3. “We were like ‘Damn, we’ve got to get back in this.’”
It looked like McIntosh would get her third ‘L’ of the weekend Sunday afternoon as Maine took a 5-0 lead with four runs in the second inning and took a 7-4 lead into the top of the seventh.
That was before the visiting Great Danes did get back in this by taking a page from the Boston Red Sox scorebook and plating seven runs — four on a grand slam — in the seventh to rally for an 11-8 victory at Kessock Field.
“That was the definition of a team today,” said McIntosh, who pitched seven tough innings of 12-hit ball to notch the win. “It wasn’t my best day, but my offense was there pretty much all seven innings.”
It wasn’t Balent’s best day either as Maine’s senior righthander seemed to hit the wall in the third after pitching 16 innings in two days.
“I think the tank got a little empty,” said Balent (12-3). “It just kind of died out and I’m upset about it because it’s my last game on this field, but I gave it everything I had.”
Balent, who tossed her sixth shutout in her last eight starts Saturday, was lifted after 2¤ innings Sunday after giving up four runs on three hits, but did not get a decision. Freshman Ashley Kelley (7-7) of Hermon took the loss, giving up five runs on eight hits in 3¤ innings of relief.
The end result is the Black Bears (30-21) are now 10-8 in America East play and locked in a three-way tie with University of Maryland Baltimore County and Hartford for fourth place — and the final playoff spot — with three games left.
“It was so important to take those two against Albany because it put us in much better position and such a great mindset for today and next week,” said Maine sophomore left fielder Kali Burnham.
Burnham put herself in contention for AE Player of the Week honors by going 6-for-11 with a double, five singles, five RBIs and two runs scored over the weekend. She also delivered the game-winning run in Saturday’s second game with a two-out single off McIntosh in the bottom of the seventh.
“I don’t know what it is. She’s a good pitcher, but the ball looked huge to me,” Burnham said. “I live about 10 minutes away from her in Canada and I’ve always kind of been able to hit well against her. I just went up with a whole lot of confidence each time.”
Burnham led the way Sunday, going 3-for-4 with a two-run double and two singles.
Maine scored on in the first on Kristen Calvetti’s two-out single down the right-field line and added four more — all with two outs — in the second. Ashley Waters missed a grand slam by about a foot and settled for a two-run double off the center-field fence. She and Burnham scored as freshman Terren Hall of Bucksport followed with a two-run double down the left- field line.
Albany (31-12) got four runs back in the third on Andrianna Walraven’s RBI double, Nicole Kothe’s RBI triple, and Gina Mason’s two-run double off the center-field fence with two outs.
After Maine added two insurance runs in the sixth via Burnham’s two-run double to center, Albany had its second big inning, sending 10 batters to the plate and totaling seven runs on five hits, the biggest of which was No. 9 hitter Kristine Bill’s grand slam to center.
(Saturday’s First Game)
Albany 000 000 0 — 0 4 0
Maine 100 000 x — 1 3 0
McIntosh and Smith; Balent and George
(Saturday’s Second Game)
Albany 000 102 0 — 3 7 0
Maine 000 030 1 — 4 8 0
Powell, McIntosh (6) and Smith; Balent and George