ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine baseball team just can’t get on a roll of late — whether on the field or on the highway.
The Black Bears, who have lost seven of their last nine games, ended a three-game America East series Sunday with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory at Albany.
Five minutes out of New York’s state capital that afternoon, UMaine’s bus broke down and stranded the team in Albany. Then a rainy forecast washed out Tuesday’s scheduled nonleague game at Northeastern University in Boston.
That leaves coach Steve Trimper’s team (23-21, 9-6 America East) looking to start clicking as they get ready for a three-game set at Hartford this weekend.
“We’re disappointed, to say the least,” said Trimper, whose Bears have struggled at the plate three weekends in a row and have not been able to get their pitchers dialed in.
“It’s tough to put a finger on,” Trimper said of UMaine’s spotty all-around play. “We’re trying to play consistent baseball and we consistently play inconsistent.”
The Bears occupy third place in the league standings behind Stony Brook (14-3) and Binghamton (10-6) and hold a percentage-points edge over fourth-place Albany (10-7), which owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with UMaine after winning four of six meetings.
The Bears have an identical overall record as in 2011, when they won the America East championship and advanced to the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional. Their conference mark is only one game behind last year’s pace, although the Bears have four contests remaining against Stony Brook.
The Seawolves have clinched one of four spots in the league’s four-team, double-elimination tournament, which runs May 23-26 at the home field of the highest-seeded team.
UMaine needs one win this weekend to wrap up a postseason bid. With Maryland Baltimore County (2-16) already mathematically eliminated, a victory by the Bears would give them the head-to-head tiebreaker against Hartford (5-13), even if the Hawks win their last five.
“We’ve just got to get these guys playing consistent. Otherwise, we’re not going to be able to win the tournament,” Trimper said.
The Bears will be without freshman pitcher Luke Morrill of South Thomaston for the rest of the season because of an elbow injury.
The 6-foot-4-inch righthander has been shut down for four to six months but will not require surgery, according to Trimper.
Morrill appeared in 12 games for UMaine, including two starts, and compiled a 1-1 record with a 5.91 earned run average in 21 innings. He struck out 18 and walked six.
However, he experienced tightness and soreness during the Bears’ April 6-7 trip to Maryland Baltimore County and subsequently threw only three pitches in an April 10 nonleague start against Colby before he was forced to leave the game.
On a positive note, UMaine will have another pitcher available on a limited basis starting this weekend.
Freshman Scott Heath of Westbrook, who underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last summer, has been cleared to pitch in games.
“He’s going to be able to throw 30 pitches at a time in regular game situations,” said Trimper, who explained Heath got the go-ahead Tuesday. “He threw live against us for the last month, that was his [rehabilitation] protocol, and he’s looked very good.”
Heath’s speedy recovery from the June 30, 2011, surgery enabled him to see duty as a position player from the outset. The 6-foot, 185-pound lefthander has started in right field and is batting .306 with a home run and 17 RBIs in 31 games.
Heath recently missed three games after separating his right shoulder, but he returned April 28. He hit a two-run home run in Saturday’s 9-5 loss at Albany.
Heath went 5-0 on the mound last spring at Westbrook High School, where he went 32 innings without allowing a run. The Dr. John Winkin Award finalist gave up 11 hits, all of which were singles.
“He’s certainly going to be able to help us out as we go down the stretch,” Trimper said.