CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Friday was a long day of waiting for the members of the University of Maine baseball team.
The Black Bears spent the day hanging around their hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn in Durham, N.C., as they got mentally prepared for what for most of them will be the biggest day of baseball in their lives.
The team did take a brief outing in the afternoon as they gathered at Champps Restaurant in Durham for a group lunch. Coaches, staff and a handful of family members also turned out.
UMaine athletic director Steve Abbott, athletic development guru Pat McBride and former UMaine pitching star Joe Ferris of Brewer arrived to provide moral support and some words of encouragement.
Garciaparras among Boshamer fans
There were a couple of former stars in the crowd for Friday night’s regional game between UMaine and North Carolina.
Former Boston Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and his wife, former professional soccer star Mia Hamm, sat in one of the luxury boxes in Boshamer Stadium to take in the contest.
Hamm could be seen signing autographs for some of the folks who were seated in their vicinity. The Garciaparras were accompanied by their 4-year-old twin daughters, Grace and Ava.
Garciappara played eight-plus seasons with the Red Sox from 1996-2004 and was a six-time all-star. He finished the ‘04 season with the Cubs and played with them another year before spending the next three seasons with the Dodgers. He then retired in 2009 after playing one season with the Oakland Athletics.
James Madison prevails in opener
Third-seeded James Madison University pulled the first “upset” in the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional, posting and 11-7 victory over No. 2 Florida International on Friday afternoon.
The Dukes (41-17), the nation’s top-scoring team coming into the NCAA tournament at 9.2 runs per game, exceeded its average while pounding out 14 hits against four different FIU pitchers.
The Golden Panthers (40-19-1) posted 11 hits of their own, but managed only three hits and two runs in 7 1/3 innings against D.J. Brown, who ordinarily is JMU’s closer.
Weather pleasant for opening day
The hot weather that greeted the UMaine contingent upon its arrival in North Carolina on Wednesday continued to cool slightly as game day approached.
The temperature at Boshamer Stadium was a pleasant 81 degrees with just a hint of a breeze coming out of the east. Clear skies and bright sunshine were again the order of the day.
Boshamer Stadium multidimensional
Bryson Field at Boshamer Stadium, the site of the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional, is a facility befitting the tradition of the Tar Heels program.
The field is all natural grass, save for a small area of artificial turf that borders the home plate area and is emblazoned with “Tar Heels” in Carolina blue outlined in white.
Boshamer Stadium does have some interesting dimensions around the perimeter of the outfield fence. It is 335 feet down the line in left, 370 feet to the alley in left-center and 400 feet to straightaway center.
From there, the fence takes a significant inward bend around a light pole in right-center, where the fence is only 355 feet away. It then tapers back to 340 feet down the line in right.
UMaine senior co-captain Joey Martin of Portland said while fielders must be aware of their positioning in center and right fields, hitters can’t be tempted by the “short porch” in left-center.
“No matter what field you’re on, you can’t play to a field,” the lefthanded-hitting Martin said of the temptation to try to pull the ball. “You’ve just got to keep the same approach.”
Martin, who pointed out the ball was carrying very well off the bat during Thursday’s batting practice session, may have understated that dynamic.
In Friday’s regional opener, Florida International and James Madison combined to hit six home runs. Five of those were hit by the Golden Panthers, who nonetheless came out on the short end.