Taylor Lewis closed the book Tuesday on his University of Maine baseball career.
The Black Bears’ speedy junior outfielder made his way to PNC Park in Pittsburgh, where he was expected to sign a minor-league contract with the National League’s Pittsburgh Pirates.
Lewis said in a text message Tuesday afternoon that he had verbally agreed to a contract with the Pirates and planned to sign on the dotted line later in the day.
Lewis, of Montville, Conn., is expected to start his pro career with the State College Spikes, a Class A affiliate of the Pirates. The Spikes play in the New York-Penn League, which is a short-season (75 games) league.
On June 7, Lewis was drafted in the 10th round (302nd overall) by Pittsburgh after a solid season at UMaine. He was the first outfielder selected by the Pirates.
Lewis, a 6-foot, 200-pounder, batted .287 with three home runs and 28 runs batted in during his junior season. The co-captain started all 57 games and led the team with five triples, 44 runs scored, 28 walks and 20 stolen bases in 24 attempts.
Lewis, who ranked second on the team with 62 hits, was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2011 America East Baseball Championship, helping the Bears earn the league title and the automatic berth to the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship’s Chapel Hill (N.C.) Regional.
In 2010, Lewis set a UMaine and America East single-season mark with 13 triples and owns the school career record with 20.
Lewis was an All-America East first-team choice as a sophomore after batting .369 with five homers, 52 RBIs, 14 doubles, 13 triples and 21 steals in 22 tries.
The departure of Lewis leaves two holes in the UMaine outfield for next season. Senior Joey Martin of Portland also finished his career this spring.
The Bears return a couple of part-time starters in Pat Thibodeau of Caribou, who will be a junior next season, and sophomore Colin Gay. Redshirt sophomore Fran Whitten and junior Robbie Trask of Saco are other possibilities.
Outfielder Ian Leisenheimer also could return for his final season of eligibility, although he likely would see more duty as the designated hitter.
UMaine’s Balentina honored
Jonathan Balentina of UMaine has been selected for the 2011 America East Baseball All-Academic Team, which was announced Tuesday.
An America East committee made up of sports information directors, academic advisers and faculty representatives from all nine conference schools chooses the team. A nominee must be a starter or important reserve and participate in at least half of team competitions.
Acadmically, a nominee must have a GPA of 3.30 or higher and have completed at least one academic year at their institution.
Balentina has been a standout in the classroom for the Black Bears. He earned his degree in civil engineering this spring and plans to take graduate classes in the fall.
The native of Willemstad, Curacao, owns a 3.61 cumulative grade point average and thus was named to Team Maine for having the highest GPA on the team during calendar year 2010. Balentina also was a Maine Scholar-Athlete and earned a spot on the America East Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll.
On the diamond, the 6-3, 220-pound lefthanded pitcher compiled a 3-1 record with a 5.31 earned run average. He registered 42 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings and added a save.
Balentina missed the 2010 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in 2009.