SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. — Senior first baseman Justin Leisenheimer singled through the right side with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the 11th inning Friday night, lifting the University of Maine baseball team to a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
The Black Bears (6-8) finally came through in the clutch after letting a handful of scoring chances go by the boards on the first day of the Rawlings Strike Out Cancer Tournament at Seton Hall University.
“It’s good to have Justin get a bit hit,” UMaine coach Steve Trimper said of Leisenheimer, who went into the game batting .114.
UMaine plays Fordham at 10 a.m. Saturday before facing Seton Hall at 2 p.m.
On Friday, the Bears managed only six hits but received excellent pitching and did not commit an error.
“It’s a good win,” Trimper said. “We knew this wasn’t the NJIT of old. [Former UMaine assistant] Mike Cole has done a heck of a job with them.”
Sophomore righthander Mike Connolly (1-2) earned his first collegiate victory with three innings of one-hit, shutout relief. He struck out three and hit a batter, working his way out of jams in the 10th and the 11th.
Junior righthander Steve Perakslis limited the Highlanders to seven hits and two runs through the first eight innings. He fanned six, walked four and hit a batter.
Tyler Patzalek posted an RBI single for the Bears, who left only three men on base.
Matt Weckerle, Mike Rampone and Bryan Bleakley registered two hits apiece for New Jersey Tech (4-7). Rampone and James D’Aloia had doubles.
UMaine was held scoreless for nine innings heading into the 11th, but broke through against reliever D.J. Roche (2-2). It began with two out when Patzalek and Nick Bernardo worked walks.
“That’s one of the things our offense is doing,” Trimper said of the Bears’ patience. “It’s a fine line between being too patient and too aggressive. We took too many pitches early in the game.”
Alex Calbick reached on a fielding error by the shortstop, loading the bases. Leisenheimer followed with the game-winning single.
The Highlanders jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Rampone led off with a double to left and Bears outfielder Ian Leisenheimer injured his groin on the play when he slipped on the artificial turf.
Weckerle bunted Rampone over and he scored on D’Aloia’s double down the line in right.
The Bears countered with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Mike Fransoso drew a one-out walk, stole second and rode home on Patzalek’s single to right-center.
Sam Balzano of Portland laid down a bunt single, then Calbick delivered an RBI single through the right side.
Justin Leisenheimer grounded into an inning-ending double play.
NJIT tied it in the third when Ed Charlton walked, stole second with one out and scored on Weckerle’s single to center. One out later, Patzalek threw out Weckerle trying to steal second.
The Bears threatened in the sixth when Colin Gay walked and moved up on Fransoso’s groundout, but was left stranded.
NJIT had a golden opportunity to score in the eighth, but came up empty. With one out, Weckerle singled to center, then Perakslis hit D’Aloia and walked Tom Bouck to load the bases.
However, Perakslis got Roche to ground into a 5-2-3 double play to escape unscathed.
UMaine threatened to end it in the bottom of the 10th after one was out. Pinch hitter Fran Whitten was hit by a pitch and advanced on a groundout.
Pinch hitter Troy Black stroked a single to center field, but Whitten was thrown out at the plate.