Coming off its first America East championship and NCAA regional appearance since 2006, the University of Maine baseball team is gearing up for 2012.
Coach Steve Trimper’s ballclub will face two national powers early as UMaine opens the season with a three-game series at Clemson (S.C.) and follows up a two-game set at Florida A&M with a three-game series at Florida State.
Florida State and Clemson combined to post an 89-38 record in 2011, with the Seminoles advancing to an NCAA Super Regional and the Tigers hosting a Regional tourney.
Clemson is coached by former UMaine baseball and football standout Jack Leggett (Class of 1977).
“Opening up with ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) perennial powers Clemson and Florida State will be a great experience and undoubtably help us prepare for a run at another NCAA Regional appearance,” Trimper said.
“I think it’s a balanced schedule, a competitive schedule, but at the same time it’s a fair schedule to our kids to get a chance to win and work on some things.”
Trimper has tweaked the trip, as UMaine will play only 12 games in 17 days. The aim is to schedule practice days rather than playing games.
“It not only helps us become more competitive, but it also helps us teach a little bit more at a pivotal time when we’re coming out of the (Mahaney) Dome,” Trimper said.
The Bears wrap up spring break with four games in a tournament at Winter Haven, Fla.
Their northern schedule begins March 16-18 at South Orange, N.J., with the Seton Hall Strike Out Cancer Tournament.
UMaine will play 24 consecutive nonconference games before its April 3 home opener against Husson University of Bangor.
The Bears have only three America East home series this season and will play at most 14 games at Mahaney Diamond in Orono.
“It’s super tough to get people to come up here, especially after the year we had last year,” said Trimper, who admitted he had offered guarantee money in an attempt to lure teams to Orono.
UMaine has lined up midweek nonconference contests against Colby, UMaine-Farmington, Bates, Massachuetts, Northeastern and Boston College.
“This is the most midweek games we’ve ever had,” added Trimper, who explained fewer games in Florida meant adding some in the Northeast portion of the schedule. “It’s good to play some of the Maine schools that are only an hour or so away.”
HOOP TEAMS SEEK CHEMISTRY
UMaine’s basketball teams went through a bit of a feeling-out during Sunday’s exhibition games at Alfond Arena in Orono.
Men’s coach Ted Woodward has brought in seven first-year players to complement his seven returning players, while women’s coach Richard Barron has five freshmen.
The challenges for the newcomers are many.
“(It is) having them come out and understand the consistency of effort and trust enough in each other that they don’t have to do anything too difficult; all you’ve got to do is hit the next open guy (with a pass) and something good’s going to happen,” Woodward said. “Really that trust factor on both ends of the court is something you build at this time of year.”
UMaine senior Gerald McLemore has seen enough of the freshmen to know there is considerable talent among them.
“I’ve played in this league for a while now and I’ve seen all the freshmen and they’re definitely above average,” McLemore said. “As long as they keep their heads, don’t get too big-headed, they’ll definitely be all right.”
With the women’s squad, Barron has the added dynamic of having to teach his system to not only the freshmen, but to the entire team.
“Exciting,” was how sophomore guard Ashleigh Roberts described the dynamic. “This year, the majority of our team is new, so everybody’s roles are redefined.”
She also believes the first-year players are pushing the veterans because of their talent level.
“I feel like it’s more competitive this year than last year,” Roberts said. “I think it’s the quality of (the new) players.”
UMFK TEAMS HEAD TO NATIONALS
The men’s and women’s soccer teams from the University of Maine-Fort Kent are on their way to Asheville, N.C., where on Thursday they will play first-round games in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Championships.
The Bengals are the defending USCAA champions for both men and women and are the top seeds for the event. Coach Lucas Levesque’s UMFK women play Thursday at noon against No. 8 tourney host Warner-Wilson College and coach Bill Ashby’s Bengal men also face No. 8 Warner-Wilson at 2 p.m.
The UMFK men (14-1-1) are paced by freshman Phathizwe Sacolo, who boasts a team-leading 27 goals and seven assists, along with freshmen Kenrick McLeod (11&1), Jamie De Abreu (4&15), Wilfried Monthe (10&1), and seniors Keith Williams II (6&5) and Jermaine West (7&2).
The Bengals are averaging 5.6 goals per game and have allowed only 10 goals in 16 games. Junior goalkeeper David Girouard has been forced to make only 41 saves this fall.
On the women’s side, UMFK (14-0-0) has been stingy on defense, giving up four goals, and prolific on offense, averaging 5.0 goals per outing.
Senior Whitney Sinclair of Dexter has been the offensive catalyst with 24 goals and 10 assists. Junior Theresa Biggs has registered 17 goals and eight assists and classmate Donike Ferriera 16 goals and eight assists for the Bengals.
Sophomore Victoria Dubois-Iredale checks in with 3&13, while freshman Sydney Proctor of Saco has allowed four goals and made 35 saves.
The USCAA is made up of 82 small colleges from across the country, including 50 men’s soccer programs and 35 women’s soccer teams.