ORONO, Maine –It was prolific offense in the first game and strong pitching in the nightcap that enabled the University of Maine to sweep Saturday’s America East baseball doubleheader against Hartford.
The Black Bears pounded out 16 hits in a 14-7 opening-game victory, then rode the combined four-hit pitching of A.J. Bazdanes and Keith Bilodeau to a 4-1 win in the second game at sunny Mahaney Diamond.
Coach Steve Trimper’s Bears (22-16, 6-3 AE) remained in a tie with Binghamton for second place in the conference standings after the Bearcats swept a twinbill at Albany on Saturday.
The Hawks slipped to 8-23overall, 2-7 in league play.
UMaine looks to complete the sweep in Sunday’s nine-inning game at Mahaney Diamond.
“We want to sweep. It would help us a lot in conference,” said UMaine senior Joe Mercurio. “We’ll be at 7-3 if we can get this. It’s a very big game for us (Sunday).”
In Saturday’s second game, Bazdanes (4-3) allowed only three hits and one run over 6 1/3 innings to set the tone for UMaine.
The sophomore righthander struck out seven, walked three and hit a batter before giving way to classmate Bilodeau. The righty earned a save, pitching 2 2/3 innings of one-hit, shutout ball with three strikeouts.
“His curveball was very good,” Mercurio said of Bazdanes. “It wasn’t as big as it usually is, which helped him throw it more for strikes, which helped his fastball, also, because he was able to spot that up.”
Hartford lefthander Mike Thatcher (3-2) effectively kept the Bears off-balance, but wound up allowing six hits and four earned runs in seven-plus innings.
Senior shortstop Tony Patane singled twice and scored a run to lead UMaine, while Tyler Patzalek provided an RBI double.
Matt Walker doubled to lead the Hawks.
UMaine scored all the runs it would need in the third inning off Thatcher. Patane rapped a single to left field and Michael Fransoso followed with an infield single on which second baseman Erik Figueredo threw high over first base, allowing Patane to take third.
The first run scored on a balk, while Joe Mercurio’s ground-ball single off the glove of diving shortstop Cory Beahm provided the eventual winning run.
“Sometimes if a pitcher’s shutting you down, you have to bunt a guy over, get him over and manufacture a run, which we did that second game,” Trimper said.
Hartford scored its only run in the fifth. Adam Sobiewski was hit by a pitch with one out and moved up on Alex Bulger’s single through the box. Victor Santana hit a run-scoring single through the right side to make it 2-1.
The Bears added a run in the bottom of the fifth when Fransoso walked, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Patzalek’s line-drive double to left-center.
UMaine added an insurance run in the eighth, with Matt Howard providing a sacrifice fly.
In Game 1, sophomore center fielder Taylor Lewis lined a three-run home run in the third inning to give the Bears the lead for good at 7-5.
“I have a load of confidence right now,” Lewis said. “Whatever they’re pitching to me, I’m just trying to see it up and drive it, help out the team any way I can.”
Lewis also hit a single for UMaine, which scored in all six of its at-bats. The Bears piled on five runs in the fifth inning and added two in the sixth to put the game out of reach.
Patane knocked in three runs with two singles and a sacrifice fly for the Bears, who racked up 16 hits against two Hartford pitchers. Joe Mercurio doubled twice with two RBIs and Patzalek had a single and two RBIs.
Freshman righthander Steve Perakslis (3-4) earned the victory, spreading out five hits and four walks over four-plus innings. He struck out six and hit a batter.
Andrew Siano and Cory Beahm singled twice each for the Hawks (8-22, 2-6 AE). Hartford was without six players, including some key hitters, who were suspended for Saturday’s doubleheader by coach Jeff Calcaterra.
Starting pitcher Steve Sobocinski (1-6) suffered the loss.