ORONO — Sunday’s gloomy weather may have played a role in limiting the University of Maine’s offensive output, but it didn’t dampen the Black Bears’ spirits.
Pat Thibodeau of Caribou executed a suicide squeeze bunt to score Alex Calbick in the bottom of the 10th inning Sunday afternoon as UMaine edged Hartford 3-2 in the finale of their America East baseball series at rainy Mahaney Diamond.
Thibodeau’s bunt capped an otherwise frustrating offensive performance for the Bears (26-21, 15-5 AE), who had gone 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
“I was just getting my mind set for the squeeze,” said the lefthanded-batting Thibodeau, who went 1-for-2 on sacrifice attempts earlier in the game.
“It was a curveball down and in,” he said of Brian Rice’s pitch. “I had no other choice but to pull it while I was running. I was kind of getting out of the way of it, too, because it was going right at my feet.”
Coach Steve Trimper’s team, which swept Saturday’s doubleheader, 13-4 and 12-2, earned its 11th consecutive victory to maintain second place in the conference standings.
UMaine had not won 11 straight since the 1991 season.
“We have been playing phenomenal baseball,” said sophomore Steve Perakslis (5-4), who pitched 5 2/3 innings of shutout relief. He allowed only two hits, striking out six and walking one.
“We’re hitting the ball real well, our infield and outfield are playing outstanding defense,” Perakslis added. “We just have to do what we’re doing, just keep on rolling.”
Perakslis outdueled Hawks reliever Kevin Veilleux, who worked 6 1/3 innings of three-hit, one-run ball. Veilleux , who took over for injured starter Anthony Mannuccia, threw 105 pitches after pitching a nine-inning shutout Wednesday.
UMaine scratched out only six hits after pummeling the Hartford staff for 27 on Saturday.
“We did not get big hits,” Trimper said. “Their kids (pitchers) did a great job. I give them a lot of credit. They threw breaking balls for strikes and kept us off-balance.”
The Bears stranded 10 baserunners through nine innings, but won it in the 10th.
Rice (0-3) walked Calbick, who raced to third when Fran Whitten’s sacrifice bunt was thrown wide of first by third baseman Alex Gouin.
That brought up Thibodeau, who nubbed a 1-1 breaking pitch up the first-base line.
“Even if we don’t succeed with the squeeze, we’re moving the runner over anyway with no outs,” Trimper said. (Thibodeau) did a great job on it.”
Tyler Patzalek provided the only other RBI of the game for the Bears with a fielder’s choice in the first inning. UMaine committed two errors, one of which led to a run.
Brian Estevez hit an RBI double in the in the third inning and singled in the 10th for Hartford (4-41-1, 1-18 AE).
On Saturday, the fans in attendance didn’t have to wait until after the games to see “fireworks.” The Bears amassed 27 hits.
Joey Martin of Portland and Michael Fransoso collected five hits each to lead the onslaught despite steady, light rain throughout Game 2.
“We knew the rain was going to be tough, but that’s the beauty of Mahaney Diamond with the (Field)Turf,” Trimper said.
“The guys did a great job and just stayed in the same positive mode, just kept the momentum going.”
In the nightcap, Jeff Gibbs dominated from the outset and received early run support.
The sophomore righthander (6-4) worked eight shutout innings, allowing only two infield singles. He struck out five, walked four and hit a batter. He was the beneficiary of three double plays, among six on the day for the Bears.
“The defense is continuing to be amazing, especially up the middle,” Gibbs said. “Troy Black and Mike Fransoso have done a great job turning double plays. With those two guys there, it makes it so much easier to pitch.”
Thibodeau stroked three hits and knocked in two runs for UMaine, while Martin hit a two-run home run and a single. Fransoso rapped a solo homer and a double and Lewis drilled a three-run home run.
“Taylor Lewis and Mike Fransoso, they’ve done a great job getting on base for me,” Martin said. “I’ve been able to see good pitches and drive them in.”
Rodger Wilmot provided a two-run single in the ninth for Hartford.
In the opener, Martin stroked three RBI singles and Whitten belted a two-run home run and scored four times.
UMaine piled up 14 hits, scoring in each of the first five innings to provide plenty of offensive support for Keith Bilodeau.
The junior righthander (8-2) spaced five hits and three runs over five innings. Bilodeau struck out four, walked three and hit two batters.
Martin stroked run-scoring singles in the first, second and third innings. Fransoso posted three singles and two RBIs, Justin Leisenheimer singled twice and scored two runs and Whitten added a single to his fourth-inning homer.
“Guys are going up to the plate feeling comfortable, knowing they can hit any pitch that he’s going to throw,” Fransoso said.
“It’s the right time to go on a roll right now, toward the end of the year,” he added.
Chris Suchy paced Hartford with RBI doubles in the first and third innings. Alex Bulger doubled and singled.