June 18, 2018
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UMaine focusing on opportunity to reach potential at America East tournament

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
UMaine’s Michael Fransoso (left) gets high-fives from his teammates after scoring a run against Hartford during a game earlier this season in Orono. Fransoso will lead the Bears when they play their America East tournament opener Wednesday against No. 1 seed and host Stony Brook in New York.
By Pete Warner, BDN Staff

STONY BROOK, N.Y. — Baseball is a game in which it can be beneficial to have a bad short-term memory.

As the University of Maine prepares for Wednesday’s opener against Stony Brook in the America East Baseball Championship, everyone is eager to forget last week’s four-game sweep in Orono at the hands of the Seawolves.

“We’re 0-0 in this tournament,” said junior co-captain Mike Fransoso. “We didn’t end [the regular season] the way we wanted to, but that’s not what matters. All that matters is we go into Wednesday’s game regrouped and ready to go and try to get a win.”

Fourth-seeded UMaine (26-26, 11-11 AE) embarks on its fresh start in Wednesday’s 3 p.m. first-round game against No. 1 Stony Brook (43-11, 21-3 AE) at the Seawolves’ Joe Nathan Field. It is the same site where coach Steve Trimper’s Black Bears won the 2011 league championship.

In Wednesday’s 11 a.m. opener of the double-elimination tournament, No. 2 Albany (22-30-1, 16-8 AE) takes on No. 3 Binghamton (22-24, 13-9 AE).

The losers meet in Thursday’s 11 a.m. elimination contest, while the winners play at 3 p.m. The tourney continues with two games Friday and one Saturday, if it is necessary.

Trimper has ridden the roller coaster with this team all season, one that has included a 14-game winning streak and losing 12 of its last 17. He knows none of that matters now.

“The way I look at it, we’re three games [victories] away from going to the [NCAA] Regionals and if we don’t play well down there, we don’t deserve it and another team will win our conference,” Trimper said.

Despite the Bears’ inconsistency in virtually all facets of the game, Trimper believes this group has tremendous competitive fire and enough talent to win the tournament.

“We need to get some guys playing to their capabilities,” he said. “That’s all baseball is. If everyone does their job, the team’s pretty good.”

One thing the Bears, and the other two teams in the tournament, can’t count on is any semblance of complacency from the Seawolves. Stony Brook hosted the event a year ago and came up short.

“That sucked and I know for me, any time I go out there, it’s definitely in the back of my mind,” said SBU junior Maxx Tissenbaum. I don’t want that to happen again, especially with the team we’ve got this year. We need to take care of business.”

UMaine draws the regular-season champ in its opener but learned a lot about Stony Brook, and itself, during the series. The margin for error is slim against the Seawolves.

“No team’s unbeatable, but they’re a team that you have to play perfect against,” said senior co-captain Justin Lesienheimer.

“It doesn’t matter what team it is, you can’t give away outs,” he added. “That’s the type of team we are: We have to play the whole game and do the little things right. If we play to our capabilities, we’re going to be alright.”

The Bears go into the tourney with a fair amount of postseason experience, but still have a handful of freshmen and sophomores playing key roles.

For the younger players and seasoned veterans alike, staying loose is an important dynamic.

“You’ve just got to be relaxed,” said sophomore Alex Calbick. “You can’t go there tight, you’ve just got to play our game.

“It helped going to the [Chapel Hill] Regional last year,” he added. “It slows the game down, the experience.”

Regardless, UMaine looks forward to the chance to prove itself in a tournament setting.

“We’ve definitely got a good fire under our butt right now,” said sophomore D.J. Voisine. “Hopefully, we’ll come with that fight mentality.”

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