Mercurio HR propels Bears past Terriers

Posted April 07, 2010, at 10:20 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine tuned up for its America East baseball openers at Albany this weekend at the expense of the Thomas College Terriers Wednesday night.

The Black Bears scored 13 first-inning runs and went on to post a 20-0 triumph at Mahaney Diamond.

Senior catcher Joe Mercurio, who was used as the designated hitter, hit his first grand slam en route to a four-hit game and senior shortstop Tony Patane had five hits to pace a 23-hit attack.

Seven Black Bear pitchers teamed up on a four-hitter.

Mercurio had an RBI single and a grand slam in the first inning, a double in the second and a run-scoring single in the sixth.

Patane had a double and four singles and drove in a pair of runs.

“The pitching wasn’t up to the caliber we’re going to see this weekend, but if everybody has a good approach and does the things they’re supposed to do, then you can get something out of this game and a lot of guys did,” said Mercurio.

Mercurio said the grand slam was the first he has hit “in my entire life.”

“It felt good,” said Mercurio. “I knew it was gone when I hit it. The pitch was up a little bit so I didn’t have to do much with it.”

Patane said he thought his five-hit game was his first at Maine and that it was important that the Bears (15-13) didn’t take Thomas (6-12) of Waterville lightly.

“It doesn’t really matter who steps on the field with us, you’ve got to take every game seriously and you have to make adjustments, no matter what they’re doing,” said Patane. “There was slower pitching than we’ve seen, so we had to sit back and hit the ball the other way and that’s what I did.

“I wasn’t trying to yank anything. I was just trying to use the middle and the right [side of the field]. I was really happy with the hit I had to right towards the end because it signifies that my swing was [what it should have been].”

Thomas coach Greg King, a former Maine catcher and assistant coach, said he was impressed by the Black Bears.

“This is one of the best Maine teams I’ve seen in a very, very long time,” said King. “It’s the best hitting Maine team I’ve seen since we started playing them eight or nine years ago.”

Maine wasted little time jumping out to an insurmountable lead at the expense of Thomas freshman lefty Eric Lee from Augusta.

Michael Fransoso singled to left, moved to second on a passed ball and scored on Mercurio’s sharp single to left.

Joey Martin was hit by a pitch and, one out later, Taylor Lewis walked to load the bases.

Ian Leisenheimer hit a two-run single and, after Matt Howard was hit by a pitch, Myckie Lugbauer singled home a pair and Patane followed with an RBI single.

Fransoso walked to load the bases and Mercurio belted the next pitch over the left field fence.

“I tried to put the ball underneath his hands and he just turned on it,” said Lee. “That’s something I can’t do.”

Martin was hit by a pitch for the second time, Tyler Patzalek singled and Lewis tripled them home to chase Lee.

Leisenheimer’s grounder delivered Lewis.

“It was a very tough day,” said Lee. “I’ve never had an outing like that before. They pounded the ball pretty hard. I made some good pitches, but they still reached the bat head out and got a piece of it. I didn’t hit my spots like I should have.”

Fransoso, Patzalek, Lewis, Howard and Lugbauer had two hits apiece. Patzalek and Robbie Trask had their first career homers.

Chris Bernard, A.J. Bazdanes, Kyle Benoit, Keith Bilodeau, Justin Latta, Ben Orvis and Nick deVries all pitched effectively for Maine. Bazdanes struck out the side in his inning of work.

Rob Nutter and Josh Gray doubled for Thomas and the Terriers received impressive relief stints from Payton Austin and Bejay Perkins.

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