ORONO, Maine — The players on the University of Maine baseball team will be hard-pressed to enjoy weather during a home series this season any better than that during which they practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Black Bears came into the week looking to alter their psychological strategy after dropping three of four games in the Strike Out Cancer Tournament at Seton Hall in South Orange, N.J.
UMaine, which usually takes Monday as its “off” day, instead was back on Mahaney Diamond.
“We played so poorly Sunday, the guys came to me and said they wanted to practice,” said UMaine coach Steve Trimper. “We had a good chat, then had one of our best practices of the year.”
The Black Bears came into the season with high expectations, hoping to build off the momentum of winning the America East championship and reaching the NCAA regionals. Somewhere along the way, the players felt they had lost the winning formula.
“They’re just putting too much pressure on themselves,” Trimper said. “Everybody knows that we’re good, but guys are trying to do too much.”
The result has been players pressing in tight situations rather than just relaxing and trusting not only in themselves, but their teammates. The clutch hits or pivotal pitches weren’t coming and some defensive lapses occurred.
Trimper said as a result the staff has tweaked the practice plan right down to the stretching routine, trying to emphasize that every element of the workout has a purpose that will help UMaine win consistently if executed attentively.
“Everybody’s trying to be great right now and all we’ve got to do is have everybody be good,” Trimper said. “We have a lot of leaders on this team and we’re not playing to our expectations.”
Trimper said the Bears simply have to accept their identity as a team that must work hard, execute the little things and be able to play hard to grind out victories.
Bears a bit banged up
UMaine returned from New Jersey a bit banged up as three players are nursing injuries.
Senior left fielder Ian Leisenheimer and sophomore second baseman Troy Black both suffered groin pulls and were not able practice Tuesday as they were on the mend.
Bears sophomore third baseman Alex Calbick also was dealing with a slight hamstring pull, but did participate fully in Tuesday’s workout.
Trimper said Black and Leisenheimer are expected to sit out most or all of the games in Rhode Island in the hope they’ll be ready to go for the series at Norfolk State March 30-April 1.
Let there be light
Workers were taking advantage of the warm, early-spring weather on Tuesday by replacing the lights atop the towers surrounding Mahaney Diamond.
Workers accessed the banks of lights by riding in a telescoping bucket lift that put them in position to safely change out the big light units.
Trimper said all of the lights are scheduled to be replaced after the stadium had lost numerous lights during the last several years.
Night games in recent years revealed some individual towers with several lights out on each. That resulted in some darker areas on the field, which potentially could have impaired the fielders’ ability to see fly balls effectively.