ORONO — Traditionally, the University of Maine baseball team has left the snow-covered Orono campus and spent March break in sunny Florida or other warm locales.
While down south, the Black Bears have tackled a grueling schedule. This year it included 13 games in 14 days (one game was canceled because of a travel delay).
As far as UMaine head coach Steve Trimper is concerned, those days may be over.
Playing so many games in the condensed time frame presents numerous challenges, including general player fatigue and a significant strain on the pitching staff.
“We go down there and we play nonstop for two weeks with an off day mixed in,” Trimper said. “No one in the country does what we do.”
UMaine returned from Florida with a 5-12 overall record — 5-8 on the trip.
The busy schedule also prohibits UMaine from working on specific skills through repetition between games.
“The big disadvantage is, there’s not a lot of practice time,” said Trimper, whose club opened Feb. 18 at Nevada-Las Vegas, returned Feb. 22 for a few days to work out in the Mahaney Dome, then headed for Florida for two weeks. “It’s been almost three weeks since we’ve had a really good practice.”
Trimper said he took some good-natured ribbing from Florida State coach Mike Martin and Rollins College coach Jon Sjogren about playing so many games.
“They said, you guys play more games than us and you’re from Maine,” said Trimper, who started thinking about the longstanding philosophy.
Playing almost every day does have value, since UMaine is able to utilize a lot of players. That was important this season as the Bears are trying to work several freshmen into the lineup and get them acclimated to Division I.
Next year might be the perfect time to implement the new approach. The Bears have scheduled two national-caliber programs on consecutive weekends.
“We open up with Clemson for three games and then we go to Florida State for a three-game series, both on Friday-Saturday-Sunday,” Trimper said.
During the week between those games, UMaine will be able to practice hard and maybe sneak in a midweek game. They would then likely play another three-game set on the third weekend.
“I think we have to look at the positive and negatives of a long trip like that and see what would be best for our program,” Trimper said. “We want to get some practice time in. You try to accomplish as much as you can during games, but there’s still a difference between practices and games.”
Ultimately, Trimper believes a better balance of games and practices will help the Bears achieve the improvement they seek and make them more competitive in the games they do play. That comes down to having the pitching staff properly lined up.
“When you have your No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 guy going, it obviously gives you a better chance to win,” he said. “We’re trying to develop baseball players, but we also want to win baseball games at the same time.”
UMaine has been tested well during the early season. Its four high-profile opponents (No. 5 Florida State, UNLV, Stetson and Central Florida) have a combined 56-14 record.
When presented with the idea of possibly changing the spring trip approach, UMaine junior co-captain Taylor Lewis said he would prefer the status quo.
“I think it’s always best just to play games, especially when you’re down in the nice, warm weather,” Lewis offered. “It wouldn’t take as much of a toll on your body playing the weekends, but I think in the end, playing every day and playing the schedule that we do, especially this year, kind of helps us in the long run.”
UM Hall wants nominations
UMaine has announced it is accepting nominations for the UMaine Sports Hall of Fame.
The hall of fame recognizes former student-athletes, coaches, administrators and supporters for their achievements and contributions to the success of UMaine athletics.
Criteria for selection include achievement in the athletic program, along with character, leadership and integrity. Nonathletic service to the UMaine community and achievement later in life also are considered.
Nominees must not have been affiliated with the university for five years.
Nomination forms may be downloaded by going to goblackbears.com and clicking on the link. Forms can be sent to Laura Reed, Assistant Athletic Director for Public Relations, 5747 Memorial Gym, Orono, ME 04469. They also can be faxed to Reed at 207-581-3297 or e-mailed to her at email@example.com(.)
Bates splits coaching position
Bates College in Lewiston has split the position of head women’s soccer/women’s basketball coach held by Jim Murphy for the last 17 years.
Murphy will remain the coach of the Bobcat women’s basketball program, while Bates has begun a nationwide search to hire a new women’s soccer head coach.
Murphy had directed the women’s soccer team since 1994, guiding the Bobcats to a 152-101-13 record. Bates won one New England Small College Athletic Conference title and made three NCAA Division III Championship appearances (1996, ‘97, ‘05).
Last season, the Bobcats went 6-8-2 and reached the semifinals of the NESCAC tourney.
Murphy has led Bates to a 302-132 record on the basketball court, and he ranks among the top 50 coaches, active and all-time, in winning percentage (.696).