The University of Maine baseball team finds itself in a crowded group hovering around the top of the America East standings.
The good thing for the Black Bears is their 4-3 league record has been obtained on the road.
Their next seven America East games will be at home beginning with this weekend’s three-game series against Hartford.
Maine will tune up for the series today with a 5 p.m. nonleague game against Division III Bates College of Lewiston.
Maine coach Steve Trimper likes midweek games.
“They keep our guys fresh. They get to see live pitching,” said Trimper. “Practices can get monotonous.”
It also gives him the opportunity to try to strengthen his team in preparation for the weekend.
“Our lineup is eight-strong but the missing link is our designated hitter. Usually, your DH is a hot hitter,” said Trimper.
Torrid-hitting freshman Tyler Patzalek, who hit .600 in the four-game split at Binghamton last weekend, had been the designated hitter but when sophomore third baseman Kyle Stilphen of Pittston injured his shoulder three weeks ago, Patzalek replaced him at third.
“Kyle is day-to-day. He might be able to play this weekend,” said Trimper.
Justin Leisenheimer, who is hitting .268, and Myckie Lugbauer (.209) have been struggling in the DH spot.
The pair went a combined 1-for-14 over the weekend.
“They have to step up. They haven’t been getting many quality at-bats,” said Trimper. “If one of them can get it going or Stilphen comes back [and hits], we’ll have a very strong lineup [1 through 9].”
Stilphen was hitting .208 when he got hurt diving for a ball but had a respectable yet injury-marred freshman season in which he hit .260 with three homers and 23 RBIs.
Lugbauer, who has seen work as the closer, will start on the mound against Bates and several other pitchers will throw an inning or two.
Trimper is hoping to develop pitching depth so his pitchers will be “fresh at the end of the year.
“You see a lot of teams letting their pitches go 130 pitches but we’re backing off on that right now,” said Trimper.
He was both satisfied and frustrated with the split at Binghamton.
“We swung the bats very well. We put ourselves in position to win the series. A split didn’t hurt us too much but we couldn’t gain ground,” said Trimper. “It’s hard to win on the road in this conference. There’s a lot of travel involved. We didn’t get back until 5 a.m. [Monday].”
The frustrating part was the last game in which the Bears erased 7-2 and 9-6 deficits to take an 11-10 lead only to surrender three eighth-inning runs and drop a 13-11 decision.
He said one of the other positives was he and his staff had the opportunity to “see everybody in Binghamton’s bullpen so we have [information] on them if we meet them later in the year [in the playoffs].”
He also praised the pitching performances of freshmen Jeff Gibbs and Steve Perakslis, who earned starts against Hartford this weekend. Sophomore A.J. Bazdanes will start the other game.
Gibbs beat Binghamton 3-1 with a nine-hitter — the only run was unearned — and Perakslis was a hard-luck loser as he allowed three runs and just three hits in six innings in a 3-1 loss to Binghamton ace lefthander James Giuletti.
Sophomore righty Keith Bilodeau picked up the other win in relief with three innings of two-run (no earned runs) relief.
But junior righty Matt Jebb allowed eight hits and seven runs in just two-thirds of an inning and Trimper is hoping he can bounce back since they will need a fourth starter when Stony Brook comes to town.
Senior righty Joe Miller is nearing his return from arm surgery, according to Trimper.
Singleton signs on with Maine
Raheem Singleton, a 6-foot point guard from Boston, has signed his National Letter of Intent to attend the University of Maine and play for the men’s basketball team.
Singleton helped lead Monroe Community College in New York to a 29-4 record and No. 2 national ranking in the final National Junior College Athletic Association poll last season while averaging 15.0 points, 5.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.1 steals per game.
He played high school ball for Madison Park, Mass., and led the team to a 20-2 record in 2007 before being named to the 2007 Boston Globe Boys’ Basketball Super Team.
Singleton joins a Maine squad that went 19-11 and finished third in the America East regular-season standings. The Bears return four starters, but lost point guard Junior Bernal to graduation.