June 18, 2018
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Bears still confident despite opening loss

By Pete Warner

VESTAL, N.Y. — It is a simple formula now for the University of Maine baseball team.

One loss and the Black Bears’ season is over.

Four straight victories and coach Steve Trimper’s UMaine ballclub is headed to an NCAA regional for the first time since 2006.

It is worth pointing out that in the history of America East or its predecessors the North Atlantic Conference and the ECAC North, only one team has lost its first game and come back to win the championship, the Maine Black Bears in 2002.

“It’s one game,” Trimper said of Wednesday’s 10-1 first-round loss to Stony Brook. “What you can’t do, you can’t start pushing panic buttons because we lost one game, but it’s like a weekend. We’ve won three in a row on a weekend before. Right now, we’ve just got to go out there and take care of game two.”

The Bears, especially the seniors, remained upbeat Wednesday.

Senior Tony Patane said the players know what they’re up against heading into Thursday’s 11 a.m. game against either No. 1 Binghamton or No. 4 Albany.

“We know we’ve got good bats. We know we’ve got steady pitching and good depth pitching-wise. We just have to win,” Patane said. “Nobody’s really pressing too much.”

The positive aspect for UMaine is, it won’t have to face another pitcher the caliber of Stony Brook ace Nick Tropeano, who stymied the Bears on Wednesday.

During the regular season, UMaine was 14-4 after the first game of a conference series, when it usually faced the opponent’s top pitcher.

The Bears remain confident they can get to other teams’ Nos. 2-4 pitchers and score runs.

“We’ve got to come out with the same attitude we had today, going out there, trying to score runs,” said senior Joe Mercurio. “All we’ve got to do is score runs and we can beat anybody.”

Trimper remains convinced UMaine also has enough quality pitching to be able to negotiate three games in two days, if it can continue to advance.

The Bears will start sophomore righthander A.J. Bazdanes (7-4, 4.45 earned run average) Thursday and have Matt Jebb, Joe Miller and Justin Latta lined up in the bullpen.

“I think we have a deep enough staff that if we didn’t play well in game one, we were going to come back and try to run the table here,” Trimper said.

“On paper, if we do what we’re supposed to do with everybody’s bullpens, we should be able to continue to score more runs and keep them down a little bit,” he added.

Bazdanes to shoulder the load

Bazdanes, UMaine’s starter Thursday, was an All-America East second-team pick as a pitcher.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound righthander from Nashua, N.H., went 5-1 in conference play with a 3.31 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings. Bazdanes’ problem has been walks, as he has issued 23 free passes.

At Binghamton on April 17, Bazdanes was touched up for six hits and three runs in 4ª innings and got a no-decision.

Ex-UMaine star in Binghamton

Mike MacDonald of Camden was a mainstay of the UMaine pitching rotation from 2001-2004.

On Wednesday, he stopped by to watch the Bears’ America East tournament game against Albany.

MacDonald is in town with the Richmond Flying Squirrels of the Class AA Eastern League. He was scheduled to pitch Wednesday night against the Binghamton Mets.

The 28-year-old MacDonald is 1-3 with a 3.35 ERA in eight starts this season with the San Francisco Giants’ affiliate. He has allowed 43 hits in 40¤ innings with 31 strikeouts and 11 walks.

The 6-1, 215-pound righthander is working with former Cincinnati Reds star Ross Grimsley, the Flying Squirrels’ pitching coach.

MacDonald joined Richmond after spending last season with Salt Lake City (Utah) of the Pacific Coast League, the Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angeles. At Salt Lake City, MacDonald went 8-13 with 6.37 ERA in 30 appearances, including 27 starts.

He was drafted in the 15th round of the 2004 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays.

MacDonald still owns UMaine’s career strikeouts record with 284 and ranks second on the all-time list in innings pitched (313 2/3) and fifth in career wins (25).

Double play success continues

UMaine turned its 66th double play of the season on Wednesday when Stony Brook’s Stephen Marino grounded into a 4-6-3 twin-killing.

The Bears’ shortstop-second base tandem of Patane and freshman Michael Fransoso, respectively, is now five shy of tying the school single-season mark of 71 set in 2009.

UMaine began the week ranked No. 3 in the country in double plays (65) and double plays per game (1.2)

BEAR TRACKS: When freshman Tyler Patzalek struck out against Nick Tropeano in the second inning of Wednesday’s game, it marked only the 11th time he has fanned this season. Patzalek came into the week as the 22nd toughest player to strike out in the Division I ranks this season — once every 18.2 at-bats … Patane extended his team-leading hitting streak to 11 games with his sixth-inning double Wednesday … The Black Bears’ 30 triples this season were third-best in Division I through Sunday’s games.

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