ORONO, Maine — Four innings into Sunday’s game against the University of Maryland Baltimore County, the main goal for most of the University of Maine softball team was to avoid losing a mercy-rule-shortened game.
The Black Bears were behind 6-0 and UMBC starting pitcher Stephanie Weigman looked virtually unstoppable with six straight strikeouts.
Then came the fourth inning, when Maine leadoff hitter Alexis Souhlaris drew a walk and ignited a six-hit, six-run rally that propelled the Bears to an 8-7 victory in nine innings. The win followed a Saturday twinbill split when the Bears won the first game 3-2, but dropped the second 4-1.
The 20-22 Bears maintained their hold on second place in America East with a 9-3 record. The Retrievers dropped to 3-9.
“We needed the win today, especially how we won,” said Maine coach Deb Smith. “We needed to be able to fight back because it builds confidence.
“I loved seeing them battle back today because that will help us another time when we’re down two or three runs.”
Sunday, the deficit was six runs at Kessock Field before the Bears sent 11 batters to the plate and saw 44 pitches.
The big blow came off the bat of third baseman Terren Hall. The junior from Bucksport drilled a 2-2 pitch 230 feet and over the fence in center for a three-run home run. After that, Kristen Calvetti singled, Kali Burnham hit an RBI double to left center, Stephanie George drew a one-out walk after Burnham scored on a passed bal, and Jordan McLain followed with one of THE at-bats of the game.
The junior from Orrington, who was 1-for-22 before Sunday, fouled off three two-strike pitches before finally lacing a 2-2 pitch to left for an RBI double.
“Jordan was almost 0-for-the-season so far, but she’s been swinging very well in practice lately,” Smith said. “She needed an opportunity and that was a huge at-bat for her.
Another one making the most of an opportunity was Cayleigh Montano. The senior pitcher entered the game with one on in the second after starter Ashley Kelley gave up two runs in the inning.
Montano (1-2) allowed seven hits and one walk in 7¤ innings while getting 11 strikeouts and her first win this year.
“It was an awesome outing for me. [Catcher] Steph [George] really called a great game and we were in synch all day,” said Montano. “We were going with a lot of curves today and a few riseballs. Honestly, we even played with some pitches we never throw very much. I had a lot of movement and spin on the ball.”
UMBC made it 7-6 in the fifth on an RBI double by Julia Culotta, but Maine tied it in the seventh on three hits and a one-out RBI fielder’s choice grounder by Kali Burnham.
Souhlaris walked to lead off the ninth, stole second, and — a hit batter later — scored on Hall’s sharp single to center.
“We were a knockout blow away from eight-running Maine and getting a win, but couldn’t close it out,” Retrievers coach Joe French said.
On Saturday, Maine won the first game 3-2 on a last-at-bat home run by Souhlaris, but lost the second game 4-1 as Weigman pitched a five-hitter and allowed just one run on a two-out single by Hall in the fifth inning.