Balentina helps University of Maine beat Bates for 14th consecutive victory

Posted April 18, 2012, at 8:12 p.m.
Last modified April 18, 2012, at 9:21 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — Earlier this season, Jon Balentina learned that his surgically repaired left elbow was injured again.

Rather than allow the news to derail his senior season, the left-hander from Curacao found a way to contribute.

Balentina showed off his new “submarine” delivery Wednesday evening, pitching four scoreless innings to help the Black Bears earn a 10-3 baseball victory over Bates College of Lewiston at Mahaney Diamond.

Balentina (2-0) allowed only one hit, striking out four and walking one.

“With any new thing, it takes a lot of practice,” said Balentina, who is working on his master’s degree in engineering. “I’ve been throwing overhand for my whole life and switching to throw underhand, with some discomfort, it’s not easy to do.”

Sophomore Alex Calbick lashed a three-run home run and an RBI single as UMaine recorded its 14th consecutive win. Coach Steve Trimper’s Black Bears (21-14) hit the road for a four-game America East series Saturday and Sunday against Binghamton at Ithaca, N.Y.

Bates, a Division III program from the New England Small College Athletic Conference, dropped to 15-13.

“All in all, we tried to get some guys work,” Trimper said. “That’s what we needed to do, and build off what we’ve been doing and try to get ready for a long weekend.”

Senior Justin Leisenheimer doubled, singled and knocked in two runs for the Bears and freshman Sam Balzano of Portland singled twice and posted two RBIs. Fran Whitten doubled and singled with an RBI among 12 hits for UMaine.

Bears freshman Scott Heath of Westbrook left the game in the fourth inning when he injured his right shoulder diving back into first base. He is expected to be evaluated on Thursday.

Freshman Mekae Hyde of Lewiston and Mike Ciummei paced Bates with two singles each.

UMaine used five pitchers after Balentina, with the Bobcats scoring two unearned runs. Balentina set the tone early by throwing lots of strikes and keeping the ball down.

“It makes it easier to go out there and grind out an inning or two, just try to help the team out and have good, quality outings and get W’s,” Balentina said. “That’s the whole point, do whatever it takes to win games.”

The game was tied 0-0 with two out in the fourth when the Bobcats opened the door for the Bears. Ian Leisenheimer’s ground ball to third base would have ended the inning, but Ciummei threw high over first base.

UMaine made it hurt.

Heath grounded an RBI single through the right side, but was hurt on a subsequent pick-off play at first base. Whitten kept the rally going by lashing a double to right-center.

Calbick made it 4-0 when he lined a 2-2 pitch from David Bonneau over the right field fence.

“That’s what everyone stresses all the time, if a team makes an error, you’ve got to capitalize,” Calbick said. “We did that today.”

UMaine kept the offense going in the fifth, scoring five times.

Balzano stroked a two-run single, Calbick had a run-scoring single and Justin Leisenheimer pounded a two-run double during the uprising.

“We’re hot now,” Justin Leisenheimer said. “It’s only a matter of time for us, at least in our minds on the bench, that we’re going to score runs, we’re going to get our hits. It’s not like panic mode if we don’t score in the first three innings.”

The Bears made it 10-zip in the sixth on singles by Fransoso, Balzano and Whitten (RBI).

Bates finally got on the board in the seventh with the aid of two UMaine errors and a wild pitch — and without benefit of a hit. The Bobcats cut the deficit to 10-3 in the eighth on Jeff Gunn’s RBI single off Eric White of Brewer.

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