ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine’s starting pitching struggled during the first three games of its America East weekend series against Stony Brook.
Keith Bilodeau finally settled things down in Sunday’s series finale.
The sophomore righthander, who earned his way back into the starting rotation, pitched six strong innings Sunday as the Black Bears earned a 13-3 victory to split Sunday’s doubleheader and the series at Mahaney Diamond.
Stony Brook won Sunday’s first game 5-4.
On Saturday, the Seawolves took the opener 7-3 before the Bears eked out a 10-9 victory in Game 2.
“We were down by a good amount early three of the four games and we were able to come back once,” said UMaine junior co-captain Joey Martin of Portland. “This last game, jumping out to a lead, we could relax and swing the bats the way we can.
UMaine (25-18, 9-5 AE) goes into this week in second place in the conference standings, two full games behind Binghamton (20-18, 11-3 AE).
In Sunday’s finale, Bilodeau pitched five scoreless innings, providing UMaine’s first quality start of the weekend.
“He threw strikes. He didn’t get a lot of strikeouts but he kept the ball down and we played defense behind him,” said UMaine coach Steve Trimper. “It’s nice to get him going.”
Bilodeau (3-1) scattered five hits and two runs through six innings, striking out two and walking two. It was his first start since a March 9 appearance at Rollins.
“It was good. It’s taken a long time because of problems with my shoulder, but I finally overcame that and my command’s back. I’m throwing well.”
The Bears scored the first eight runs of the contest, including three runs each in the second and fifth innings. Myckie Lugbauer, who drilled a solo homer in the fourth, lined a two-run single in the fifth-inning uprising.
“I’ve been working hard in practice and on my days off to get better and finally today it paid off,” said the senior co-captain.
Stony Brook (19-21, 8-6 AE) scored twice in the sixth, but UMaine responded with four more runs, spearheaded by Martin’s three-run home run.
The game also featured the return of senior righthander Joe Miller, who made his first appearance after having elbow surgery last year. He pitched two scoreless innings, retiring all six batters he faced.
In Sunday’s first game, Stony Brook built a five-run lead in the first 3½ innings and sophomore righthander Tyler Johnson (6-2) held UMaine in check.
He featured a well-located changeup as Stony Brook fended off a comeback attempt by the hosts. Johnson spread out six hits while striking out five and walking two. He retired the last eight UMaine batters he faced.
“Anybody that can throw offspeed for strikes is usually going to be pretty good,” Trimper said. “At lot of pitchers at this level don’t throw it for strikes.”
Martin also had a run-scoring single for UMaine, while Joe Mercurio and Taylor Lewis each tripled and singled.
Bears starter A.J. Bazdanes (4-4) surrendered a pair of two-out runs in the first inning and three runs in the fourth, including Pat Cantwell’s three-run home run, which proved to be the game-winner.
UMaine got back into contention on Ian Leisenheimer’s two-run double in the fourth and a two-run fifth that featured Mercurio’s RBI single. However, he was left stranded at second base.
On Saturday, Stony Brook amassed 32 hits but UMaine managed to salvage a split.
In Game 2, Lewis’s RBI double capped a four-run, fifth-inning rally that carried UMaine to victory.
“No matter how many runs we’re down by, we just keep on battling,” Lewis said. “We were basically relentless. We just stayed with what we do best and got some hits on them.”
UMaine responded after Stony Brook built a 6-0 advantage after 1½ innings, but the Bears eventually tallied four runs in the fifth to take its first lead of the day.
Tony Patane’s two-run double off relief loser Michael Barbot (1-3) was a big blow, then Michael Fransoso chased Barbot with a game-tying hustle double to center field. Chris Maier came in and induced a fielder’s choice grounder by Mercurio, but Lewis punched an opposite-field double to left-center to provide the go-ahead run.
UMaine’s bullpen made it stand up.
Junior Matt Jebb (2-3) pitched 3ª innings of six-hit ball and allowed only one earned run.
“Our bullpen did great,” Trimper said. “I’m happy for Matt Jebb. That’s the first time in a long time we pitched him out of the bullpen. It’s not an easy transition, but he did a good job with it.”
Senior Justin Latta came on to earn his third save. He worked his way out of a ninth-inning jam by inducing a game-ending, 1-6-3 double play.
Kyle Stilphen of Pittston knocked in three runs for UMaine with an RBI single in the second and a two-run homer in the third that made it 6-6.
“I got a good pitch to hit and hit it well, put a good swing on it,” Stilphen said. “We know we can score runs. We’ve been behind a lot this year and we always have a good fight.”
Lewis stroked a double and two singles and Patzalek singled three times for the Bears.
Cantwell collected a double and four singles to spearhead Stony Brook’s 18-hit onslaught. Robert Dyer had a double and two singles, while Chad Marshall doubled twice and knocked in four runs.
In Game 1, Stony Brook sophomore righthander Nick Tropeano (5-3) pitched a three-hitter with six strikeouts and three walks. He kept the Bears off-balance with a fastball, slider and changeup.
The Seawolves jumped on UMaine starter Jeff Gibbs (5-3), who never found his usual rhythm. Stony Brook scored three runs in the first, two in the third and added single runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
Dyer hit a double and two singles to pace the Seahawks’ 14-hit attack. Tanner Nivins knocked in three runs with a two-run single in the first and an RBI double in the third.
Mercurio cranked a three-run homer to lead UMaine, whose only other hits were singles from Martin and Patane.