UM’s infield still strong

Posted March 23, 2010, at 11:30 p.m.

The University of Maine baseball team set a school record last season, turning 71 double plays in 55 games.

That’s an average of 1.29 per contest.

Despite a couple of personnel changes in the infield, the Bears continue to show a propensity for “turning two.”

Through 19 games, UMaine has registered 25 double plays, an average of 1.32 per game. If the Bears maintain that pace, they would eclipse the 2009 mark, set in their first season on the FieldTurf at Mahaney Diamond.

“The good news is, we’re turning double plays. The bad news is, we’re walking guys,” said UMaine coach Steve Trimper.

The returning cog in the double play machine is senior shortstop Tony Patane. With Danny Menendez having graduated, Patane has meshed smoothly with freshman second baseman Mike Fransoso in the middle.

“We didn’t miss a beat between range and double plays and all that stuff,” Trimper said of Fransoso joining the mix. “His strength is, he’s got a better arm than Danny. He throws the ball really well.”

Patane is another slick fielder with a strong throwing arm.

“I think he’s probably one of the most underrated ballplayers in our conference,” Trimper said. “He’s probably our most vocal leader and a really competitive kid.”

UMaine also has replaced Jarrett Lukas of Old Town, who did not return to the team to concentrate on his studies. Sophomore Kyle Stilphen of Pittston has played 15 games at third base thus far, while classmate Justin Leisenheimer has seen some duty there.

Junior Joey Martin has thus far seen most of the time at first base.

Thus far, the Bears are fielding at the same .966 efficiency rate as last season, although their errors per game are up slightly at 1.32 as opposed to 1.24 a year ago.

There isn’t a lot of depth in the UMaine infield. Stilphen could back up at second base if needed, while Leisenheimer can play first and third. Senior co-captain Myckie Lugbauer also may see time backing up Martin at first base.

Bears’ Latta finds his niche

Justin Latta continues to serve an important role this season coming out of the bullpen for the Bears.

The senior righthander made his 11th appearance of the young season in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader at No. 18 Oregon State.

His on a pace to potentially break UMaine’s single-season mark for appearances (29) set in 2005 by Canadian righthander Scott Robinson.

Latta is already 3-0 with one save in 22 innings. He has allowed 17 hits and seven earned runs for a team-best 2.86 ERA with 23 strikeouts and 12 walks.

Latta has hit nine batters utilizing his revamped sidearm/submarine delivery, but opponents are hitting only .218 against him. That ranks second among America East pitchers.

At OSU, Latta relieved freshman Jeff Gibbs and allowed two hits and a run with a strikeout and a walk in 1¤ innings in a 7-5 loss.

A walk on the ‘wild’ side

UMaine pitchers have been a bit on the wild side during the first 19 games of the season.

The Bears have already thrown 34 wild pitches, one more than the number they uncorked during the course of the full 55-game schedule in 2009.

Sophomore A.J. Bazdanes leads the way with 10 WPs, while freshman Steve Perakslis has thrown five.

Trimper is confident the pitchers will continue to settle in as their roles are defined and they gain experience.

The UMaine staff also has been prone to hitting batters, recording 29 HBPs in 19 games (1.53 per contest).

The Bears’ walk total also has been on the rise. The pitchers have issued 106 free passes (5.6 per game) as compared to 3.3 per contest last season.

“We’ve got very good arms, but our guys have to have confidence and go after hitters with their fastball early in a count,” Trimper said. “It’s a credit to the hitters for Lamar, North Carolina and Oregon State. They’re laying off a lot of pitches.”

Waters washed away Brady mark

It was mistakenly reported last week that University of Maine senior softball player Alexis Souhlaris had broken the school career hits record previously held by Jessica Brady.

While Souhlaris is now the career hits leader, the record was actually last held by Ashley Waters, not Brady. Waters passed Brady last season and finished with 215 total. The previous record was incorrectly credited to Brady in a UMaine press release.

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