It could be a wild final weekend in the America East baseball ranks this week.
The University of Maine is among five teams vying for a berth in next week’s America East Championship, which will feature the top four teams in a double-elimination format.
Coach Steve Trimper’s Black Bears (30-21, 11-9 America East) are in contention, but are by no means a shoo-in.
However, UMaine still is in position to not only earn a playoff spot, but to serve as the host of the tournament, which is scheduled for May 21-23 at the site of the highest-seeded team that can procure an adequate lighted facility.
“The conference tournament could be anywhere, there could be anybody in it. That’s the way it sets up right now,” Trimper said. “You won’t know until after it’s all said and done.”
Coming off Sunday’s doubleheader sweep at the hands of Binghamton, there are several ways for UMaine to qualify for the AE tourney.
The Bears are gearing up for a four-game series at Stony Brook, N.Y., (12-8) on Friday and Saturday. If UMaine can take three games, it will be guaranteed a postseason berth as it would hold the advantage over Stony Brook.
“It was a tough weekend for us mentally, so we really want to focus this week on playing sound baseball,” said senior co-captain Billy Cather. “We’re just going to go out there this week, have hard practice and then take one game at a time at Stony Brook.”
Assuming all four games are played by the six teams playing this weekend, anything fewer than three victories and the Bears will need some help.
What follows describes UMaine’s prospects if it splits at Stony Brook:
A split would give the Bears a 13-11 league record and the Seawolves would beat out UMaine by a full game.
In that case, UMaine would be rooting for Binghamton to take at least three games from Vermont (now 11-9) at Vestal, N.Y., which would give the Bears the nod over their longtime rival.
If UMaine splits and the Catamounts win three or four at Binghamton, Vermont gets the nod over the Bears.
If the Bears and Catamounts wind up tied after the final regular-season series, the tiebreaker procedure would take effect. And since the teams split against each other this spring, the squad with the best record against the eventual No. 1 seed (by winning percentage) would advance.
Under that scenario, UMaine would clinch a spot only if Binghamton (now 12-4 in America East) finishes first, since the Bears went 2-2 against the Bearcats who, in turn, went 3-1 against the Catamounts.
But, if Albany (now 13-7, .650) slips into the top spot after its series at Hartford, Vermont would claim the tiebreaker against UMaine, which was swept by the Great Danes. The Catamounts went 2-2 against Albany.
With its edge against the Bears, Albany needs only to go 2-2 to clinch a postseason berth. Binghamton would qualify automatically by going 1-3, again with the edge over both UMaine and Vermont.
Hartford (5-13) and Maryland Baltimore County (4-18) both have been eliminated from contention.
There are some important caveats to consider while mulling over the America East playoff scenarios.
First, postseason seedings will be determined by winning percentage rather than victories because the teams have not all played the same number of games. And the possibility exists some games could be lost this week to inclement weather, although Sunday would be used as a rain date.
The examples given here do not represent every eventuality, so any deviation in the total number of games played or unexpected occurrences (i.e., Hartford sweeping Albany) could alter the scenarios.
All UMaine needs to know at this point is, it can earn its way into the tournament with a great weekend.
“A., going into the last weekend, we still control our own destiny,” Trimper said. “B., we’re going up against a team that we can knock them out if we play well, bottom line.”