It was a challenging weekend for the University of Maine baseball team.
The Black Bears opened their America East Conference schedule on the road against preseason favorite and defending champion Stony Brook.
Even though the Seawolves took three of four games in the series, coach Steve Trimper’s UMaine team came away believing it will give Stony Brook a run for its money by the time the postseason rolls around.
“I feel like we’re, on paper, just as good a team if not better,” said sophomore catcher Tyler Patzalek. “If we see them again in the conference tournament, I think we could take that game from them.”
UMaine will take a 10-19 overall record and a 1-3 league mark into next weekend’s three-game series at Hartford (2-23-1, 0-3 AE). Right now, the difference between the Bears and the Seawolves is a bit of experience.
The Bears have routinely been starting six underclassmen, including four freshmen, in their regular lineup. Stony Brook has a similar split, but features four sophomores and two freshmen.
The Seawolves are the league’s top hitting (.304), pitching (3.53 earned run average) and fielding (.981) team. They are extremely strong up the middle (catcher, shortstop/second base, center field).
UMaine has first-time starters at catcher and second base, along with a shortstop who moved over from second base, in addition to veteran center fielder Taylor Lewis.
Each team committed two errors in the four-game weekend series.
“When you go on the road, against a good team in your conference, you certainly want to split or win the series,” Trimper said, “but that’s a huge accomplishment. We had our chances in that (second) game.”
Ultimately, Stony Brook is more settled in terms of its collective self-confidence. UMaine continues to establish roles as the first-time regulars settle into the grind of Division I baseball.
The Bears’ pitching staff also is searching for consistency among the starters, although there is still competition for at least one spot in the weekend rotation. UMaine did issue 19 walks last weekend, while Stony Brook walked only four batters in 33 innings.
Seven of the batters who walked (37 percent) came around to score. UMaine is averaging 5.2 walks per game this season.
Trimper believes the timing of the series should help the Bears grow moving forward in league play.
“I think it was good to get matched up against them the first week, because now we’re going to see them at the end of the year, so we’ll see how we’ve both improved.”
UMaine game with Husson canceled
The baseball game between UMaine and Husson University originally scheduled for Tuesday has been canceled.
Trimper said the Bears were forced to eliminate one of their contests against non-Division I opponents because NCAA and America East rules allow teams to play no more than four contests per season against Division II or Division III teams.
UMaine had already played three games against Division II Rollins College during its spring break trip to Florida.
“We played in that Rollins tournament in the hope that we wouldn’t play them in the championship game, but that’s what happened,” said Trimper, who had scheduled instate games against Husson and Colby College of Waterville.
UMaine will instead play its final non-Division I game April 19 in Orono against Colby. The game was previously postponed by rain.
Trimper explained that since the Rollins tournament has been discontinued, UMaine plans to take on four instate Division III opponents in 2012.