Bears’ playoff status uncertain

Posted May 10, 2009, at 10:33 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — The quest for a berth in the America East Baseball Championship will extend into the final weekend of the regular season for the University of Maine.

The Black Bears took two from Binghamton University Saturday by scores of 11-2 and 2-0, but the Bearcats won Sunday’s games (4-3 in 11 innings, 4-0) at Mahaney Diamond.

The split leaves UMaine (30-21, 11-9 AE) with a half-game lead over Vermont (18-28, 10-9 AE) for the fourth and final playoff spot. The Catamounts play UMBC once today.

“Unfortunately, a three-game win this weekend would have really put us in the driver’s seat,” said UMaine head coach Steve Trimper.”

“It was nice to get two, but you get greedy and want more. “We’ve got to go down there [Stony Brook] next weekend and winner takes all.”

Two UMaine single-season records were set Sunday.

Senior Danny Menendez struck in the first inning with his 36th stolen base, surpassing Chad White of Brewer (1993).

The Bears also turned three double plays on the day, including a 6-3 twin-killing in Game 2 that was their 65th of the spring. That bettered the 64 turned by the 2005 ballclub.

UMaine committed four errors Sunday, two in each game, and they were costly.

“If you look back at our one-run losses, it’s when we give a couple things away,” Trimper said.”

In Sunday’s opener, C.J. Lukaszewski laid down a safety-squeeze bunt for a base hit with one out in the top of the 11th inning, giving the Bearcats the margin of victory.

UMaine was within one strike of winning the game in the seventh, but Binghamton tied it, then outlasted the Bears in a game dominated by a fierce wind blowing straight in.

Closer Greg Lane (3-1) pitched 3ª innings of hitless relief to earn the win.

“We really played our hearts out the first three games,” said senior Billy Cather. “Losing that one was a little bit tough and I think it kind of took a little air out of our balloon.”

UMaine got a resilient performance from starter A.J. Bazdanes, who allowed five hits and one earned run. However, the Bears couldn’t cash in on some early scoring chances.

Both teams stranded 10 baserunners, but UMaine went 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“It’s conference baseball and we’ve got to go out and play a hundred percent every day,” said Kevin McAvoy of Brewer. “If you don’t, teams are going to beat you.”

Bazdanes walked Henry Dunn with one out in the seventh after retiring the previous 11 batters in a row.

Dunn stole second and advanced when catcher Joe Mercurio’s low throw got past shortstop Tony Patane. One out later, Corey Taylor grounded a single off Patane’s stab.

“That’s actually our style,” Dunn said. “We like to run a lot, play small ball. We focus a lot on that.”

UMaine got first-inning RBI singles from Ian Leisenheimer and McAvoy.

Jim Calderone singled three times to lead Binghamton.

In Sunday’s second game, freshman righty Mike Augliera (4-2) held the Bears to two hits while the Bearcats cashed in on two UMaine errors.

Augliera struck out eight, allowing only singles by Menendez and Cather.

“We kind of made him look a little better than he was,” McAvoy said.”

Binghamton scored the only run it would need in the first against freshman Keith Bilodeau (1-7). Kyle Klee reached on an infield single toward the middle and moved up on Menendez’s ensuing wide throw.

Corey Taylor followed with an RBI single past third.

The Bearcats added three runs in the fifth.

Bilodeau scattered seven hits with four strikeouts.

On Saturday, Kevin Scanlan pitched a four-hitter in Game 1 and Matt Jebb hurled a six-hit shutout in a rain-shortened second game.

“They had changeups, curveballs going,” Trimper said. “They pitched a little backwards and kept them off-balance.”

In Saturday’s first game, Scanlan was in charge.

“I felt better today and everybody played really good defense behind me,” said Scanlan (5-3), who commanded his fastball, curveball and changeup with excellent location. He induced 12 ground-ball outs.

Cather, who was among five seniors honored before the game, pounded a two-run, opposite-field double off starter Jeff Dennis (4-4) to spark the Bears’ four-run second inning. He then crushed a three-run home run to highlight UMaine’s three-run fourth.

“This is one of the last times [my parents are] going to see me play here and it was really special to have a good day out there,” Cather said.

McAvoy tripled in the fourth and belted a two-run homer in a four-run sixth.

In Saturday’s nightcap, sophomore righty Jebb (7-3) dominated the Bearcats with a nasty changeup and was ahead in the count all night long.

“I checked my pitching chart and I was 20-for-25 on getting first-pitch strikes,” Jebb said.

Jebb overcame a contest that included a 35-minute rain delay prior to the sixth inning.

“I really just tried to bear down,” Jebb said. “I got out there and threw and I felt fine.”

UMaine, which turned a tantalizing and timely 4-6-3 double play in the sixth inning, scored the only run it would need in the second when leadoff batter Ian Leisenheimer mashed a 2-0 offering from Murphy Smith (7-2) over the left-field fence.

The Bears scored in the fourth on singles by McAvoy and Lugbauer, a double steal, and a throwing error.

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