STONY BROOK, N.Y. — The University of Maine was no match for Stony Brook University’s vaunted offense on Wednesday afternoon.
The top-seeded Seawolves touched up Black Bear pitching for 18 hits while cruising to a 1 4-6 victory over the No. 4 Black Bears in a first-round game in the America East Baseball Championship at Joe Nathan Field.
“We just kind of wanted to score early and score often, and that’s what we did today,” said Stony Brook junior Travis Jankowski, the America East Player of the Year.
Coach Matt Senk’s squad continued its record-setting season and takes a 44-11 record into Thursday’s 3 p.m. winners’ bracket game against Binghamton (23-24). The Bearcats beat Albany 2-1 in Wednesday’s tourney opener.
The Seawolves aren’t going to get ahead of themselves this time around.
“Last year, we were the first team in Stony Brook history to win 40 games. We kind of had a chip on our shoulder,” Jankowski said. “This year, we’re just trying to stay a little more humble and take it day by day, game by game.”
UMaine (26-27) will try to stave off elimination in Thursday’s 11 a.m. game against Albany (22-31).
Coach Steve Trimper’s Black Bears know they have to stay in the moment as they try to remain alive.
“We’ve got to take this one pitch at a time and work really hard on keeping our minds on that,” said sophomore Fran Whitten, who belted a three-run home run for UMaine. “You never know, a big comeback is always possible in these tournament situations.”
The Bears didn’t have any answers for the Seawolves’ potent offense on Wednesday.
First, a UMaine pitching staff thinned by illness and fatigue was racked around. Junior righthander Steve Perakslis was unable to make his scheduled start after suffering from the flu.
Sophomore Shaun Coughlin, who threw 99 pitches Saturday in a 7-2 loss to the Seawolves, was ineffective on only three days’ rest. He allowed six hits and six earned runs in the first two innings as the hosts built an early cushion.
Junior Jeff Gibbs came on in the third and allowed only one run in his first three innings, but then surrendered four runs in the sixth and three more in the seventh.
The Bears believe they can bounce back and didn’t fold against Stony Brook.
“You’ve just got to wipe it,” said sophomore Troy Black. “You’e got to regroup completely and see what happens from then on. We have to try to take it one game at a time from now on.”
Jankowski and Kevin Krause each collected four singles and an RBI to set the offensive tone for Stony Brook. Maxx Tissenbaum knocked in three runs with two doubles and a single, Kevin Courtney posted two singles and three RBIs and Pat Cantwell added a two-run triple and a run-scoring single.
Senior righthander Tyler Johnson (9-1), the league pitcher of the year, kept the Bears pretty much at bay. He beat UMaine for the second time in five days, keeping the Bears from piling up a lot of hits.
Johnson, Stony Brook’s all-time victories leader, scattered seven hits and finished with two strikeouts and three walks.
“We always felt like we had somewhat of a chance,” said Black, who stroked two singles for the Bears. “We were hitting the ball well the whole game. We were barreling up balls, hard-hit balls to the fence.”
Mike Fransoso singled twice with an RBI for the Bears.
Stony Brook built a quick 6-0 lead. Tissenbaum laced a two-run double down the right-field line in the first inning, then doubled and scored in the second, when Cantwell lined a two-run triple to right-center.
Trailing 7-0, the Bears responded in the fourth. Fransoso singled, Tyler Patzalek walked and Ian Leisenheimer reached on a two-out throwing error to plate a run. Whitten followed, launching a high home run to right field.
“That was the only pitch that I saw inside,” Whitten said. “I think it was a mistake, so I capitalized on it. I was just trying to put the ball in play and make things happen.”
Gibbs answered with two scoreless innings, as did Johnson. The Seawolves then ended the suspense in the sixth.
Krause and Jankowski had RBI singles during the four-run inning, which included two walks and a wild pitch. SBU then scored three more in the seventh.
“It’s important when you put up a few runs to always throw up zeroes after that,” Whitten said.
BEAR TRACKS: Perakslis is expected to get the start Thursday against Albany, which is likely to throw senior lefthander Sean Lucas. The Bears still have Whitten, D.J. Voisine, Jon Balentina and Mike Connolly — who was ill and did not attend Wednesday’s game — in the bullpen … Fransoso gave the Bears a scare in the seventh when he twisted his left knee trying to avoid colliding with sliding teammate Ian Leisenheimer on a fly ball to shallow left. However, he stayed in the game and appeared to be moving OK for the remainder of the contest.