ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine baseball team secured its first postseason berth since 2008 Saturday afternoon by virtue of a 9-5 victory over Albany in the first game of an America East doubleheader at Mahaney Diamond.
The Great Danes also gained a spot in the America East tournament, cruising to a 12-5 victory in Saturday’s second game.
UMaine (29-20, 12-7 AE) and Albany (10-35, 9-11 AE) will join Binghamton and Stony Brook in the fourt-team, double-elimination America East Baseball Championship, which begins May 26 on the home field of the highest seed.
“It’s unfortunate. We want to play well down the stretch,” said UMaine coach Steve Trimper. “We can’t go up and down like a roller coaster going into postseason play, because there’s no margin for error in the postseason.”
The Black Bears and Great Danes play the rubber game of the regular-season series Sunday at 1 p.m.
UMaine is now out of the hunt to host the tournament. Binghamton (18-3 AE) is in the driver’s seat, but Stony Brook (13-6) still has an outside shot.
The second game left a bad taste in the Bears’ mouths.
“It was weird. We just played terrible,” said UMaine senior Joe Mercurio, who knocked in four runs in the doubleheader and hit his team-leading 11th home run in the nightcap.
“It’s one of those you forget about it, you come back, you’ve got to play well tomorrow (Sunday), you’ve got to win (Sunday).”
In Game 1, Mercurio knocked in two runs with a sacrifice fly and a single, while Tony Patane also posted two RBIs on a pair of singles. Taylor Lewis stroked a double and two singles for the Bears.
Michael Fransoso’s two-run home run to right field in the second inning gave the Bears the lead for good. Freshman Pat Thibodeau of Caribou also singled twice and scored two runs.
Steve Perakslis (4-4) picked up the victory in relief of starter Jeff Gibbs, allowing two hits and one run with three strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings.
Zach Kraham (1-4) suffered the loss for Albany, allowing 10 hits and eight runs in the first four innings.
Ralph Keppler doubled and singled with an RBI and Adam Cutspec singled twice and knocked in a run for the Great Danes.
In Game 2, Albany scored four runs each in the second and third innings en route to a lopsided victory.
The Great Danes racked up 14 hits to support winning pitcher Ryan White (2-4), who allowd seven hits and four runs in 5 2/3 innings.
UMaine starter Keith Bilodeau (4-2) was touched up for nine hits and eight runs in only 2 1/3 innings and the hosts never recovered.
“The fact of the matter is, we came out flat,” senior co-captain Patane said of Game 2. “Nobody was really into it. That was probably one of the worst games I’ve seen us play. we’ve just got to bounce back (Sunday).
“It’s frustrating, it really is,” he added.
Joey Martin of Portland stroked two doubles and a single to pace UMaine, while Mercurio stroked a two-run homer and a single. Justin Leisenheimer hit a solo homer and a single and Patane doubled and singled with an RBI.
Mike Tirri hit an RBI single, Kyle Crean rapped a run-scoring double and Nolan Gaige stroked a two-run single in Albany’s four-run first, while Greg Muller and Keppler hit run-scoring singles in the four-run second inning.