CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The University of Maine’s postseason hopes were dashed in a single inning again Sunday afternoon.
James Madison scored four times in the second inning and rode strong pitching to a 5-2 victory over the Black Bears in the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional at the University of North Carolina’s Boshamer Stadium.
Coach Steve Trimper’s team (33-24), making its first NCAA appearance since 2006, came up short in its bid to win two NCAA tournament games for the first time since 1991.
“We just fell a little bit short today, but it doesn’t take anything away from this team and what they’ve accomplished this season,” Trimper said.
“It gave us a taste of what we want to do and accomplish and we really, truly believe — whether people think we’re blowing smoke or not — we really think we can get in these things and win them,” he added.
UMaine’s season ended rather quietly as it scratched out only four hits against three JMU pitchers. The Dukes (42-18) advanced to Sunday’s 6 p.m. championship-round game against the top-seeded host Tar Heels, who are 2-0 in the regional.
UMaine had advanced to Sunday’s play with a 4-1 victory over Florida International on Saturday afternoon.
On Sunday, the Dukes jumped on UMaine starter A.J. Bazdanes to score four times in the second inning en route to the victory.
JMU didn’t wind up needing all four runs as Evan Scott stifled the Bears’ bats. The junior righthander (4-3) limited UMaine to four hits and two runs in 7 1/3 innings.
“He came right after us with fastballs,” said UMaine senior co-captain Joey Martin of Portland.
Sophomore Michael Fransoso belted a double and a triple against Scott.
“You’ve got to give him credit, he obviously threw really well,” Fransoso said. “We just didn’t string some things together.”
The Dukes did.
James Madison touched up Bazdanes for six hits and four runs in the second inning.
Ty McFarland led off with a single to center and Bradley Shaban punched a bunt single past the mound, then both advanced on Conner Brown’s sacrifice bunt.
Cole McInturff plated a run with an infield single, Johnny Bladel grounded an RBI single to left and Jake Lowery lofted a two-run double to the gap in right-center to make it 4-1.
“We were flip-flopping between starting Shaun (Coughlin) or A.J. and A.J.’s had some more experience starting,” Trimper offered.
“He really tried to throw strikes and, give JMU credit, they got six hits in an inning and that’s pretty tough to overcome,” he added.
Coughlin came on in the third inning and kept the Bears in the ballgame. The freshman righthander kept JMU off the scoreboard for 5 1/3 innings, but was lifted with one out in the eighth and wound up allowing one run.
UMaine, which had surrendered four runs in the first inning Friday night against UNC, couldn’t make up the deficit.
Fransoso’s one-out double off the right-field fence in the first helped the Bears take a 1-0 lead on Martin’s opposite-field single. UMaine made it 4-2 in the third when Troy Black drew a one-out walk, advanced on a wild pitch and rode home on Fransoso’s two-out triple to the fence in right-center.
Scott settled down and retired 13 of the next 14 batters, including eight in a row. He was lifted in the eighth after giving up a one-out double to Colin Gay and walking Black. Alex Valadja got the next two hitters to escape the jam.
“We got down a couple early, and we were just trying to claw back in and we just couldn’t get back in that one at the end,” Trimper said.
Lowery knocked in three runs for JMU with a double and an eighth-inning sacrifice fly, while McInturff collected three singles.
On Saturday afternoon, Jeff Gibbs shut down an offensive-minded FIU team that led Division I in hits.
The sophomore righthander limited FIU to two hits in eight-plus innings with a sharp-breaking slider and a lively fastball. Trimper said the scouting report provided by assistant coaches Billy Cather and Jason Spaulding was pivotal.
“We wanted to go after them with sliders,” Trimper said. “We thought they were a little bit more of a free-swinging team.”
It was UMaine’s first NCAA postseason win since beating Southern Mississippi 12-2 in the 2005 regional at Oxford, Miss.
FIU (40-20-1) was ranked No. 20 in one national poll and 27th in the Rating Percentage Index.
Gibbs (8-5) surrendered a leadoff single to Pablo Bermudez in the first inning, then stymied the Golden Panthers until Bermudez doubled to open the ninth and was lifted in favor of Steve Perakslis.
Gibbs, who retired 21 of 23 batters prior to the ninth, struck out eight and walked three, throwing 99 pitches.
“It’s a great atmosphere here playing in North Carolina, a great stadium, so I think I was more excited rather than nervous to pitch today,” said Gibbs, who deflected credit to his teammates.
UMaine turned two double plays behind him, including one in the sixth with the Bears leading 2-0.
Perakslis came on in the ninth and surrendered a one-out RBI single by Yoandy Barroso before getting the final two outs to clinch the victory.
The Bears struck first, after FIU lefthander Phil Haig (9-4) hit Tyler Patzalek and Justin Leisenheimer to open the second inning. Alex Calbick failed to get down a sacrifice bunt, then grounded into a double play that sent Patzalek to third.
Ian Leisenheimer came through in the clutch, lining an 0-1 pitch into left field for an RBI single that made it 1-0.
“It put pressure on them,” said Patzalek, who reached base five times with two hit batsmen, two walks and a single. “We went up and we kept rolling from there.”
UMaine gave Gibbs a bit more support in the fifth as Fransoso grounded a one-out single through the middle, stole second and scored on Martin’s opposite-field double to left.
The Bears made it 4-0 in the sixth on Black’s RBI single and a sacrifice fly by Lewis.
The Bears left 13 runners on base and went 4-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
“We have the impression we deserve to be here,” Ian Leisenheimer said. “”We can play with any team that’s down here…”