WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — After scuffling a bit Saturday, the University of Maine baseball team didn’t waste any time re-establishing itself Sunday afternoon.
The Black Bears scored early in both games and received strong pitching while sweeping an America East doubleheader from Hartford at wind-whipped Fiondella Field.
Joe Mercurio provided the offensive spark in UMaine’s 10-3 Game 1 victory, while Keith Bilodeau pitched 6¤ innings of four-hit ball in the Bears’ 12-4 win in the nightcap.
Hartford took Saturday’s nine-inning game by a 7-6 count.
“A good team is going to be able to overcome a bad day, which is what we had [Saturday], and it’s a sign that we overcame it,” said UMaine coach Steve Trimper. “We’ve got to win tough games down the road.”
UMaine (27-19, 11-6 AE) remains in second place behind Binghamton (24-18, 15-3 AE), while Stony Brook (22-22, 11-6) is third via a tiebreaker against the Bears.
Senior catcher Mercurio was the offensive catalyst Sunday. He stroked three doubles and two home runs, driving in six runs during the twinbill.
Mercurio hit a two-run double, a two-run homer and an RBI double in the opener, then provided a double and a solo blast in Game 2. He also scored four runs while hitting out of the No. 3 spot.
“These two games were big and we didn’t let them get away from us,” Mercurio said. “We’ve got to keep pace with a couple of teams right around us.”
In Sunday’s second game, Bilodeau (4-1) was a settling influence with his efficient effort, backed by a 15-hit attack. The sophomore righty struck out four and walked one, featuring a sharp-breaking cut fastball.
“It’s a couple weeks in a row now. He’s really been our most consistent pitcher over the last three weeks,” Trimper said.
Justin Leisenheimer also responded Sunday. The backup sophomore outfielder went 3-for-5, stroking a three-run homer and a triple in the opener, then posting an RBI single in the second game.
Leisenheimer also was hit by a pitch three times in Game 2 and reached base six times.
“I was just getting ready the whole week, working on the swing, and the first game today I got a few hits,” said Leisenheimer, who is accustomed to being hit by pitches.
“I do take up a lot of the batter’s box,” he added. “I’m not going to jump out of the way. If they want to give me a free base, I’ll take it.”
Taylor Lewis lined a two-run triple to get the Bears off to a 2-0 lead in the first against loser Vincent Fiore, then UMaine slowly pulled away.
Michael Fransoso tripled twice with two RBIs and Leisheimer added a single to pace the Bears. Matt Walker singled twice for Hartford (9-31, 3-14 AE).
In Sunday’s first game, Mercurio drove in five runs with two doubles and a two-run home run to lead UMaine to victory.
The Bears collected 11 hits and received solid pitching from A.J. Bazdanes and Barry Keiffer while rebounding from Saturday’s disappointing loss.
Mercurio helped get UMaine off to a strong start, pulling a double down the left-field line to spark a three-run first inning that also included Joey Martin’s RBI single.
The Bears added three runs in the second inning against Hawks starter Mike Thatcher (3-4). Mercurio launched a two-run home run after Fransoso posted an RBI single as UMaine built a 6-0 lead that proved to be more than adequate support for the pitchers.
“If we could start like that every game, it would be a very different season,” Mercurio said.
Sophomore righthander Bazdanes (5-4) allowed only four hits and two earned runs in five-plus innings of work. However, he did walk five while striking out four.
The Bears turned three double plays.
Mercurio also added a run-scoring double in the fourth inning for the Bears, who received a triple and a clinching three-run home run from Leisenheimer.
Martin posted two singles.
“[Saturday] we didn’t play our best, then today we came out [and] we hit, we played defense, and we ended up getting two wins,” Leisenheimer said.
On Saturday, freshman Erik Figueredo delivered a pinch-hit sacrifice fly with one out in the bottom of the ninth to lift the Hawks to victory.
“Before I went up there, coach [Jeff Calcaterra] told me, get a ball you can drive, hit it deep, sac fly and that’s what I looked for is a ball I could drive,” said Figueredo.
UMaine committed three errors and struggled to get runners in from scoring position while losing to the last-place team in the conference.
“I think they got tight,” Trimper said. “They want to win everything so they can host the tournament and we got tighter and Hartford got looser. Therefore, we didn’t perform the way we were supposed to.”
The Bears went 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 baserunners. UMaine also committed three errors that contributed to three unearned runs.
“We played horrible,” said Trimper, who pointed to poor pitching, miscues and mental mistakes. “It’s the worst game we played all year.”
Fransoso doubled and singled to pace UMaine while Lewis singled twice. Mercurio hit a solo home run and Myckie Lugbauer stroked a two-run single.
Justin Latta (4-2) suffered the loss in relief of freshman starter Jeff Gibbs and freshman Steve Perakslis.
Steve Sobocinski (2-7) pitched 3¤ innings of one-hit, shutout ball to earn the win.
Andrew Siano homered, doubled and singled while scoring four runs for Hartford.
Jon Ricco opened the Hawks’ ninth by lashing a double to the gap in left-center. He advanced on Matt Walker’s sacrifice, then scored when Figueredo lined out to right field.
“Any team can beat anybody on any given day,” Mercurio said. “The difference was, they did less things wrong than we did.”