ORONO — Keith Bilodeau set the tone by pitching a two-hitter in the first game, then Jeff Gibbs worked seven innings of two-hit ball in Game 2 to set the tone for the University of Maine’s America East baseball doubleheader sweep of Albany on Easter Sunday.
Bilodeau was in command during the Black Bears’ 3-0 victory in the first game at Mahaney Diamond, then Gibbs worked around five walks in laying the groundwork for the 5-3 win in the nightcap.
The teams play the series finale Monday at 2 p.m.
In the opener, junior righthander Bilodeau (5-2) surrendered consecutive singles to Nolan Gaige and Kyle Crean with two out in the third inning, then retired the last 13 batters he faced.
Bilodeau struck out seven and walked only one while pitching his third consecutive complete game and his second straight two-hitter.
“I was putting the ball right where I wanted to, so if I wanted to strike them out, I’d throw a ball out of the (strike) zone,” Bilodeau said.
Bilodeau threw 91 pitches, including 61for strikes, in a contest that lasted only one hour, 37 minutes.
“The cutter, the curveball and the fastball were all good,” he explained.
“Hopefully, we can get a sweep, finish up strong here,” Bilodeau added.
Coach Steve Trimper’s squad (15-20, 5-4 AE), which moved ahead of Albany (13-20, 5-4 AE) into third place, managed only six hits against righthander Dave Kubiak (4-4), who struck out four and walked four.
UMaine scored the only runs it would need in the third inning. Freshman Troy Black started the rally with a double down the right-field line, then Michael Fransoso drew a one-out walk.
Joey Martin of Portland followed by lining a hard, two-run single through the middle.
Bilodeau’s ability to throw strikes consistently helped the Bears stay in a good mindset.
“We’re in the game. He’s not walking guys, he’s getting ahead of batters, and then we carried that over into the dugout and with the bats,” Fransoso said.
The Bears added a run in the fourth on a leadoff single by Tyler Patzalek, Alex Calbick’s sacrifice bunt and a one-out RBI single to right off the bat of Black.
“I’m just trying to see the ball and hit the ball where it’s pitched,” said Black, who sat out the Hartford series with a groin injury. “I’m not going to power anything out (of the ballpark).”
Patzalek singled twice for UMaine.
“Being on the road for so long, it’s a nice, comforting zone being home right now,” said Trimper, whose team will play 12 of its last 17 games in Orono.
In the second game, the Bears jumped on Albany starter Kasceim Graham (2-1) for five runs and six hits in the first inning to stake Gibbs to an early advantage.
Fransoso stroked a run-scoring double in the inning, while Justin Leisenheimer, Colin Gay and Black hit RBI singles.
Graham threw 37 pitches in the inning and walked two, but escaped with the bases still loaded.
The sophomore righthander showed his resilience. Graham responded by shutting down UMaine over the next four inninings, setting down 15 straight batters.
“We jumped on him early. We were swinging the bats well,” Fransoso said. “I thought he was coming out, to be honest. Then, after that inning, he slowed himself down and started busting our hitters.”
Albany was unable to capitalize on Gibbs’ inconsistency hitting the strike zone.
The Great Danes scratched out their first run in the fifth as a one-out walk and a wild pitch set up Nolan Gaige’s double to the gap in left-center that made it 5-1.
Albany scored twice in the eighth off reliever Steve Perakslis, who walked three. Kyle Crean hit an RBI double.
“We played some good baseball today, outside of the walks in the second game,” Trimper said.
“We did get some strikeouts today that did help us and we did pitch out of a couple of jams. We got a couple of double plays that helped out,” he added.
Freshman Shaun Coughlin retired all six men he faced to earn the save for UMaine.
Fransoso doubled and singled for the Bears.
Gaige hit a run-scoring double for Albany.