April 24, 2018
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UMaine baseball sweeps series from UMBC

By Pete Warner, BDN Staff

ORONO — A couple of small adjustments led to some impressive results Sunday at Mahaney Diamond.

Sophomore righthander Steve Perakslis changed the position of the thumb on his glove hand during his delivery. The result was better control and a six-hitter as the University of Maine won the opener of Sunday’s America East baseball doubleheader 6-1 over Maryland Baltimore County.

In Sunday’s second game, junior Justin Leisheimer altered his stance slightly and wound up drilling the game-winning home run in the seventh inning as the Black Bears completed a series sweep with a 3-2 win.

UMaine (19-21, 9-5 AE) swept Saturday’s doubleheader, 4-0 and 11-5, to move within a half-game of second-place Binghamton and Albany, both 9-4, in the conference standings.

“We’re coming together and we’re going to be pretty hard to beat,” said Bears catcher Tyler Patzalek, who caught both Sunday games and belted two-run home run in the first game.

In Sunday’s finale, Leisenheimer won it after the Retrievers (6-30, 0-13) had tied the game in the top of the inning.

Leisenheimer, who had doubled and scored in the Bears’ two-run second inning, stepped back against lefthander Luke Diblasi (1-2), who kept UMaine off-stride with changeups and curveballs.

“In the first game, after my first at-bat I kind of got sawed off and coach (Steve) Trimper came up to me and said that I might have been standing a little too close to the plate,” said Leisenheimer, who also doubled and homered in Sunday’s opener.

As a result, he was able to extend his hands more and generate better bat speed.

“After I got that 1-0 (count), I was like, I’m going to swing out of my shoes and see what happens,” said Leisenheimer, whose towering shot glanced off a light pole beyond the fence in left-center.

Shortstop Michael Fransoso singled twice for UMaine and made two defensive gems. One saved a run and the other helped quell a rally.

“Mike Fransoso made two plays that should be on ESPN,” Trimper said.

UMaine starter A.J. Bazdanes gave up three hits and two runs in six innings, but departed after allowing D.J. Ream’s game-tying homer to open the seventh. Junior lefthander Kevin Scanlan worked two scoreless innings with four strikeouts and D.J. Voisine pitched a perfect ninth for the save.

Ream also singled for UMBC and Rich Conlon hit a run-scoring double.

In Sunday’s opener, Perakslis (3-4) was in command throughout as he threw strikes early in the count.

“That was by far my best performance,” Perakslis said. “I can’t even explain how high I feel right now. It’s a really awesome feeling.”

Perakslis struck out four and did not walk a batter. He threw 76 pitches, 55 of them for strikes, and went to a three-ball count only once.

“During the week, me and coach (Jason) Spaulding worked on having my thumb (turned) down when I come out (of the windup),” he explained. “If I have my thumb down, I’ll work down in the (strike) zone.”

Patzalek’s two-run home run was the key blow during a four-run third inning against UMBC’s Austin Drewyer (2-7). Patzalek also singled.

Leisenheimer belted a solo home run and a double. Taylor Lewis hit an RBI double and Fransoso added a run-scoring single.

Brian Klukowicz collected a double and two singles for the Retrievers.

In Saturday’s first game, Keith Bilodeau escaped two early jams on his way to pitching a five-hit shutout. The junior righthander (6-2) pitched his third consecutive complete game and his second straight shutout.

Bilodeau escaped trouble with two runners on in the first and second innings. He struck out five, walked three and was aided by two double plays and errorless defense.

“We’ve been playing really well (defensively) these last few weeks and that’s made all the difference,” he added.

Freshman Alex Calbick had the big blow with a three-run homer with two out in the fourth to give UMaine a 4-0 lead.

Troy Black doubled among eight hits for UMaine against righthander Mike Mitchell (1-8). Curtis Schickner doubled and singled and Conlon singled twice for UMBC.

In Game 2, UMaine spotted UMBC a 4-0 lead in the second inning, but tallied eight runs over the next four innings.

Freshmen accounted for nine of the Bears’ 16 hits led by Black, who provided an RBI single in UMaine’s two-run second inning and a two-run single in the seventh.

Mike Connolly smacked two doubles and a single (RBI), Colin Gay stung an RBI triple and two singles, and Calbick posted a single and a sacrifice fly.

“That’s a big win for us to come back and tack some runs on,” Black said. “We just kept clawing and clawing and eventually we got up big.”

Junior lefthander Jon Balentina (2-1) relieved Jeff Gibbs and limited the Retrievers to one single and one unearned run in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out six and walked three.

“To dominate a team like UMBC, you’ve got to be able to throw two pitches for strikes and mix it up a little bit and keep them off-balance,” Balentina said.

Gibbs struggled with his control and Jason Allinder’s three-run homer in the second inning made it 4-0 UMBC.

UMaine scored twice in the second, then put up three runs in the third to go on top for good. Calbick hit the go-ahead sac fly.

This article has been updated to correct the first name of Justin Leisenheimer, who hit the game-winning home run in Sunday’s second game.

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