ALBANY, N.Y. — Taylor Lewis started out the weekend by striking out in his first two at-bats Saturday.
He didn’t allow the slow start to shake his confidence.
The University of Maine’s sophomore center fielder hit for the cycle in Sunday’s 9-2 opening-game victory, then hit a home run with four RBIs in the 11-5 nightcap as the Black Bears swept their America East doubleheader against Albany.
On Saturday, the Great Danes (2-22, 1-2 AE) squandered a six-run lead before rallying to win 11-10.
“They have been a very tough team for us to play,” said UMaine coach Steve Trimper. “It’s great to win a series, especially on the road.”
Trimper’s team improved to 17-14 overall, 2-1 in league play behind Lewis, who went 8-for-12 on the weekend with three doubles, a triple and two home runs. He knocked in six runs in the three games and scored six times.
“He’s obviously a very gifted baseball player,” Trimper said. “I think he’s a kid that can play at the next level. He got in a groove this weekend and you couldn’t get him out.”
Lewis posted eight consecutive hits starting with the third at-bat of Saturday’s game and stretching into Sunday’s second game.
“I was just making some simple adjustments and kind of looking for that first-pitch strike,” Lewis said of his bounce-back.
Lewis’ triple in Game 1 was his ninth, setting a UMaine single-season record. He broke the previous mark held by Amel Lizonak and set in 1932.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” he said. “I’m glad that it helped out the team and we got a win out of it. I’m glad that we won the series.”
UMaine beat Albany twice in a row for the first time since 2005. The Great Danes had won 15 of the previous 18 meetings.
In Sunday’s second game, Lewis’ three-run home run in the first inning got the Bears started. UMaine collected 13 hits against seven Albany pitchers.
The Bears scored six runs in the first three innings, then stretched their lead as the game progressed. Freshman Tyler Patzalek singled three times for UMaine, while Justin Leisenheimer stroked a solo homer and an RBI double. Michael Fransoso added two singles.
Sophomore righthander A.J. Bazdanes was almost unhittable in relief of Matt Jebb, who was knocked out during the Great Danes’ five-run fourth.
Bazdanes, who usually starts, was put in the bullpen this weekend because of the short, three-game series. He worked the final 5¤ innings, allowing only one and no runs. He fanned four and walked one.
“I don’t know how they do it. They’ve got some serious skill,” Bazdanes said of relief pitchers. “I can mentally get prepared, but physically … by the time that I was just getting loose playing catch, I had to go in.”
Brian Bullard posted two singles for Albany.
The Bears jumped on the hosts for three runs in the first inning, all after two were out. Joey Martin singled and Patzalek walked, then Lewis hit a Kasceim Graham pitch over the left-field fence.
UMaine led 6-0 after three innings, but had to survive a two-out, fourth-inning rally by Albany.
Adam Cutspec’s three-run single cut the Bears’ lead to 6-5 and chased Gibbs, who retired eight of the first 10 men he faced. Bazdanes came on to get Gaige on a popup to shallow left field.
“A.J. went out there and built off the momentum of what we had and seized the opportunity. He was outstanding.”
In Sunday’s opener, freshman righthander Jeff Gibbs scattered four hits through 6¤ innings.
“I think what happened in the first game was Gibbs pitched extremely well and that helped,” Trimper said.
Gibbs (4-2) was in command from the outset. He struck out eight, walked three and hit a batter before giving way to Justin Latta, who got the final two outs in the seventh inning.
“I felt good. All my stuff was working for me again,” Gibbs said. “I had a chance to start with a slider on most hitters and throw that first strike which put me in a good position to throw a fastball by them for strike two and strike three.”
Lewis led the offense. He doubled and scored in the second inning, singled in the third, hit a solo home run in the fifth and tripled in the sixth.
Joe Mecurio hit a two-run homer and an RBI single for UMaine, while Tony Patane added an RBI double and a single.
Jeff Welsh singled twice for Albany and Nolan Gaige hit a solo homer.
Leading 4-0, UMaine chased Great Danes starter Zach Kraham by scoring five runs in the fifth. Lewis kicked off the rally, crushing a home run over the scoreboard in right field.
Ian Leisenheimer was hit by a pitch, then moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Matt Howard. Myckie Lugbauer was called out on strikes, but Patane lashed an RBI double to left-center, spelling the exit of Kraham.
Fransoso greeted reliever Nick Sessa with a run-scoring single past first base, then Mercurio belted a two-run homer to left, making it 9-0.
In Saturday’s game, Kyle Crean’s two-out, RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning off UMaine reliever Barry Keiffer provided the winning run.
Albany built a 9-3 advantage, then survived after UMaine had rallied to tie the contest 9-9.
Greg Lutton (1-3) earned the win with two inings of three-hit, one run relief. Ralph Keppler paced Albany with three RBI singles, then walked and eventually scored the winning run.
UMaine committed four throwing errors, three by freshman pitcher Steve Perakslis.
“We made throwing errors, we didn’t block the ball well, and we’ve got to play better than that,” Trimper said. “We didn’t play defense today like we’re capable of playing.”
Lewis paced the Bears with two doubles and an RBI single, while Patane posted a two-run double and two singles. Matt Howard added a double and a single with Ian Leisenheimer hit a game-tying, three-run home run in the sixth.
Keith Bilodeau pitched well in relief of Perakslis, allowing four hits and two runs (one earned) in four-plus innings. He struck out six and did not walk a batter. Bilodeau has been working his way back from some shoulder soreness.
Perakslis fanned eight in 3¤ innings but surrendered seven hits, including Pete Eichner’s three-run homer that gave Albany a 9-3 edge in the third.