ORONO — The University of Maine baseball team scored three first-inning runs thanks to two bunt singles and rode the clutch pitching performances of Jonathan Balentina, Steve Perakslis, Shaun Coughlin and D.J. Voisine to a hard-fought 4-2 victory over the Colby College Mules at Mahaney Diamond Tuesday night.
Maine improved to 13-20 while the Division III Mules fell to 10-15.
Colby outhit Maine 10-8 but went just 1-for-14 with men in scoring position and stranded 10 runners.
“We didn’t hit with guys on third and less than two outs and that was the story,” said Colby coach and former Maine pitcher Dale Plummer.
Maine coach Steve Trimper concurred.
“They played tough and got a couple of big hits but the difference was they didn’t get a big hit with a guy on third and (less than two outs),” said Trimper. “Our guys made clutch pitches.”
“We’ve worked all year on making pitches when they really count,” said Maine sophomore lefty Balentina, who went the first four innings and was credited with the win.
Balentina allowed one run and four hits while striking out seven and walking one. He threw 60 pitches, 38 of which were strikes.
He had a runner on third and one out in the first but got out of it with a grounder to third and a strikeout. He had a runner on third with one out in the fourth but got a strikeout and a flyout.
Perakslis got out of a two-on-nobody-out jam in the sixth with two strikeouts and a flyout and Colby had runners on second-and-third with nobody out in the ninth but scored just once as catcher Fran Whitten nailed a potential base-stealer at second before Voisine induced a fly out for his second save.
Maine touched up freshman righty Dakota Rabbitt in the first before the youngster settled down and shut them out until another freshman, Greg Ladd, came on at the outset of the sixth. Ladd allowed just an eighth-inning run.
“Our guys played great defense,” said Rabbit. “I was able to establish my curve and throw my fastball on the outside corner.”
“They threw strikes,” praised Maine senior right fielder Joey Martin, who paced the Bears with three singles and a sacrifice fly.
“My swing felt very good. It’s back to where it was,” said Martin.
Michael Fransoso opened the first by grounding a single to right and Taylor Lewis and Martin followed with bunt singles down the third-base line.
“It’s always good to start a game with a man on base and Fransoso got us started with a hit,” said Martin. “Taylor’s bunt was kind of a sacrifice but he’s so fast, it’s a win-win situation because there’s also a great chance he’ll beat it out (for a base hit).”
Martin said the situation was similar for him and he was able to reach because “I put my bunt in a good spot.”
Justin Leisenheimer was hit by a pitch to force in the first run. Whitten lined a sacrifice fly to right on which Martin also tagged up and went to third.
Leisenheimer stole second.
Tyler Patzalek grounded to third and Martin was thrown out at the plate.
With runners on first and third, Patzalek broke toward second, stopped and got in a rundown allowing Leisenheimer to scored from third.
Colby got one back in the third on a leadoff walk to Richard Newton and Brendan Gallagher’s RBI double.
Maine added an insurance run in the eighth on Fransoso’s single and stolen base, Lewis’ sacrifice and Martin’s sacrifice fly.
Colby put runners on second and third with no outs in the ninth on pinch-hitter John Lerner’s base hit, a walk and a wild pitch.
Coughlin struck out Newton but Nikolas Atsalis greeted Voisine with an RBI single to right for his third hit of the game.
Whitten threw out Atsalis trying to steal second and Voisine got Gallagher to fly out to end it.
“I went with my two-seamer and changeup,” said Voisine. “They were real scrappy and their pitchers were good.”
Atsalis, Gallagher and Yarmouth’s Robb Arndt combined for eight of Colby’s hits while Martin and Fransoso had five of Maine’s eight hits.