May 24, 2018
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Bears overcome errors for 4-3 win

By Pete Warner

ORONO, Maine — It wasn’t an impressive performance by the University of Maine baseball team Sunday afternoon.

Despite uncharacteristic throwing errors and the inability to get clutch hits, the Black Bears found a way to win.

Matt Howard and Michael Fransoso stroked RBI singles to key a two-run, eighth-inning rally that lifted UMaine to a 4-3 America East victory over Hartford at Mahaney Diamond.

UMaine won Saturday’s games, 14-7 and 4-1.

“That’s the sign of a good team. We really played at our worst of the season and we managed to salvage a win,” said senior co-captain Tony Patane, who went 5-for-7 in the series and reached base eight times.

On Sunday, coach Steve Trimper’s Bears (23-16, 7-3 AE) overcame four errors, which led to three unearned runs, and outlasted a gritty Hartford squad to complete the sweep.

Freshman Jeff Gibbs (eight strikeouts, three walks) scattered four hits over 7 and a third innings, then senior reliever Justa Latta (4-1) picked up the win with 1ª innings of hitless relief.

“We don’t expect to drop any of these games, but it was a little closer than we thought because it was kind of our fault,” Trimper said. “We were fortunate enough to come out with the wins.”

The Bears outlasted righthander Chris Greiner (2-2), who worked his way around six hits, eight walks and a hit batter before running out of gas — after throwing 127 pitches — in the eighth inning.

Trailing 3-2, the Bears finally got some timely hits. Joey Martin of Portland scorched a leadoff double to right and scored one out later when junior Matt Howard grounded a single through the middle.

“[Greiner] kept us off-balance, he did a pretty good job of that,” Howard said. “In the eighth inning, we’d seen him many times and we finally got to him.”

Greiner was lifted in favor of Vincent Fiore, who walked pinch hitter Kyle Stilphen and Tony Patane, loading the bases. Hartford brought in Brian Rice and Fransoso greeted him with a hard grounder that was knocked down by second baseman Victor Santana, whose throw to first base was late.

“He’s coming in, the [previous] guy just walked two people to load the bases. I was looking for a fastball,” Fransoso added.

Howard scored on the play, providing the winning margin.

“Good teams find a way to get the job done when they’re not playing their best baseball and that’s what we did today,” Fransoso said.

Martin doubled twice for UMaine, which scored two in the third on a double-play grounder and Joe Mercurio’s RBI single.

Santana doubled to lead Hartford (8-24, 2-8 AE), which scored single runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

In Saturday’s second game, sophomore righty A.J. Bazdanes (4-3) allowed three hits and one run in 6 and a third innings to set the tone for UMaine.

Bazdanes struck out seven, walked three and hit a batter before giving way to classmate Keith Bilodeau. The righty earned the save, pitching 2 and two-third 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.”

Hartford lefthander Mike Thatcher (3-2) effectively kept the Bears off-balance, but gave up six hits and four earned runs in seven-plus innings.

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. Patane rapped a single to left and Fransoso followed with an infield single on which second baseman Figueredo threw high over first base, allowing Patane to take third.

The first run scored on a balk, while Mercurio’s 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 and manufacture a run, which we did in the second game,” Trimper said.

Hartford scored its only run in the fifth on Santana’s single.

The Bears added a run in the bottom of the fifth on Patzalek’s line-drive double to left-center.

In Saturday’s opener, Taylor Lewis lined a three-run home run in the third to give the Bears the lead at 7-5.

Lewis also singled 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 plated three runs with two singles and a sac fly for UMaine. Mercurio doubled twice (two RBIs) and Patzalek had a single (two RBIs).

Freshman 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 Beahm singled twice each for Hartford.

On Saturday, Hartford was without six players, including five starters, who were suspended by coach Jeff Calcaterra for violating team rules.

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