April 25, 2018
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UMaine’s confidence surging after record-setting sweep of UMBC

By Pete Warner, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — Four victories over the league’s worst team won’t carry the University of Maine to another America East title, but the Black Bears’ resounding sweep of Maryland Baltimore County has sent the team surging into this week.

UMaine (16-14, 4-0 AE) hammered the Retrievers for 76 hits and 76 runs during a relentless offensive outburst that ranks as the highest-scoring four-game series in program history.

“This weekend was a slugfest for us,” said senior Justin Leisenheimer, who belted three home runs in Saturday’s 18-1 victory in Game 1. “We were seeing the ball well this weekend. Honestly, I don’t think we made too many ‘soft’ outs. We did a great job seeing pitches up [in the strike zone], looking for fastballs and hitting the ball hard.”

The numbers for the first-place Bears are eye-popping: 42 singles, 22 doubles, 2 triples, 10 home runs, 65 runs batted in, 12 walks, 4 sacrifice bunts, 4 sacrifice flies and 3 stolen bases.

In the series, only once did a starter fail to register at least one hit in a game.

The 2002 UMaine team, coached by Paul Kostacopoulos, did produce more runs in a four-game span. It opened the season by outscoring Maryland-Eastern Shore (three games) and Long Island 77-7.

Coach Steve Trimper’s Black Bears, who have rattled off nine consecutive victories, are riding a wave of confidence and momentum as they gear up for a three-game America East home weekend series against Hartford after Tuesday’s 4 p.m. contest against Colby College of Waterville.

“We had a little rough start, but now we’re coming together as a group,” Leisenheimer said. “As you could see, we’re hitting the ball well, we’re pitching well and I have confidence in my team that we’re going to keep rolling from here.”

Leisenheimer logged nine hits, including a double to go with the home runs, and knocked in nine runs at UMBC.

UMaine, which had a team batting average of .267 going into last week’s nonleague contest against Husson University of Bangor, has boosted that number to .292.

Sophomore Fran Whitten’s .563 average (9-for-16) led the way for UMaine, while Patzalek’s 11 hits, three homers (with Leisenheimer) and 12 RBIs topped those categories. Whitten, Leisenheimer and Michael Fransoso scored nine runs apiece.

Ian Leisenheimer had a team-high four doubles with 11 RBIs.

The Bears went 76-for-174, a .437 average, in the series while averaging 19 runs per game.

“Our approach was to see fastballs up, lay off breaking balls and basically hunt those fastballs out and try to put barrels on them,” Trimper said. “We had an awesome offensive weekend. We’ve just got to carry that into this week and work on some of the small things, keep it going and keep the confidence going.”

The output in Friday’s 32-14 win established both a school and America East record for runs in a game. The Bears’ nine doubles in Saturday’s second game also are a new program standard.

UMaine did have to show a bit of resilience in Saturday’s finale. The Bears built a 5-0 lead, then fell behind 7-5 as UMBC appeared to finally grab the momentum.

UMaine made sure it didn’t last, scoring 12 times over a three-inning span to pull away for the win.

“With how we’ll we’re playing, we had all the confidence in the world,” said junior Tyler Patzalek, who posted 11 hits, including three homers and three doubles, and 12 RBI in Baltimore.

“As soon as we got down, no one said ‘uh-oh’ like we had done earlier in the season,” he explained. “Every single person on the bench was like ‘yup, we’re going to win this, let’s just go out and hit.’ Everyone was clutch. Everyone was gelling. It’s just working perfect right now.”

Among the 32 innings in which the Bears batted against the Terriers, they scored in 25 of them. They also put up at least one run in 17 consecutive innings starting with the third inning of Friday’s opener and ending in the fourth inning of Saturday’s first game.

UMaine scored two runs or more in 21 different innings and racked up at least three runs on 12 occasions.

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