STONY BROOK, N.Y. — Steve Perakslis has spent the first three days of the University of Maine’s trip to Long Island sick with the flu.
The junior right-hander wasn’t feeling much better Thursday morning, but you wouldn’t have known it watching him pitch.
Perakslis (5-5) overcame a shaky first inning to pitch seven strong innings and help the fourth-seeded Black Bears earn an 8-3 victory over No. 2 Albany during the America East Baseball Championship at Joe Nathan Field.
“I’m still pretty sick,” said Perakslis, who hasn’t been able to eat much since Sunday. “I had to battle it out for the guys. I’ve been laying down a lot, drinking a lot of fluids, a lot of Gatorades.”
Coach Steve Trimper’s 27-27 Black Bears face No. 3 Binghamton (23-25) in Friday’s 11 a.m. contest in the double-elimination event. Top-seeded Stony Brook beat Binghamton 7-3 in a winners bracket game Thursday.
Albany, which had taken four of six regular-season games from the Bears, finished the campaign 22-33-1.
Perakslis, who threw a season-high 135 pitches, struck out five and walked three, mixing his fastball, a breaking ball and a split-fingered fastball.
“It was a gut-check win in a must-win situation,” Trimper said.
“He was throwing his fastball well, but his secondary pitch got going and he really had a great performance,” he added.
Sophomore D.J. Voisine pitched two scoreless innings to finish off the game for UMaine, which did not commit an error.
Perakslis and the Bears started slowly as the Great Danes scored three times in the top of the first inning. It might have been worse, but Perakslis allowed a Brian Bullard single and got the final two outs.
“That’s ridiculous,” Troy Black said when told Perakslis threw 65 pitches in the first two innings and 70 in the next five frames.
“We know what we can get out of Steve,” he added. “We knew that he was going to bear down and fight for the rest of the game and he did a great job.”
UMaine retaliated with a vengeance in the bottom of the first against Albany starter Sean Lucas (5-6). The Bears sent 12 men to the plate, with leadoff batter Black notching two singles.
Key blows in the inning included Ian Leisenheimer’s RBI single and a momentum-building grand slam off the bat of Fran Whitten. The rally which was aided by two Albany errors, gave UMaine a 7-3 lead that would stand up.
Lucas settled down and allowed nine hits and eight runs in 6 1/3 innings, including five straight shutout frames, but it was too late.
Whitten added a single among 10 hits for the Bears, while Black finished with three singles. Mike Fransoso posted two singles.
Mike Tirri doubled and singled with an RBI to pace Albany, while D.J. Hoagboon singled twice. Josh Nethaway stroked a two-run single for the Great Danes, who finished with eight hits.
Albany got to Perakslis early as Hoagboon singled, Pete DiResta walked and Tirri lined an opposite-field double to left. Josh Nethaway then grounded a two-run single to center, making it 3-0 and eliciting a trip to the mound by Trimper.
“He said, ‘my stomach is upside down,’” Trimper said. “I said, can you get through it? He’s like, yeah.’”
Albany would not score again.
UMaine quickly regained the upper hand. Black and Gay greeted Lucas with singles, then Fransoso reached on a bunt-and-run play that resulted in a run when third baseman Jeff Welsh’s throw sailed wide of first base.
Lucas sandwiched walks to Alex Calbick and Scott Heath of Westbrook around a strikeout, before Ian Leisenheimer pulled a run-scoring single through the left side.
That brought up Whitten, who smashed a 1-1 pitch for a grand slam to right field.
“It was an inside fastball I turned on,” said Whitten, who hit a three-run blast in Wednesday’s opener. “I think it was great for the rest of the game to be able to have that momentum from the first.”
That completed the scoring for both teams until the eighth, when Fransoso beat out a bunt single, moved up on Calbick’s sacrifice and scored on a pop-fly single to left by Tyler Patzalek, who ended an 0-for-21 slump.
“Games like this, in the tournament setting, you never know what’s going to happen, so it’s good that we could stay in the game and get a victory,” Black said.
Bears’ pitching thin
UMaine’s pitching will be a bit thinner as it moves into Friday’s action.
The Bears plan to give Mike Connolly the mound start, but the sophomore righty was down with the flu Wednesday and didn’t leave the hotel as the Bears played Stony Brook. He was in uniform Thursday.
Connolly last pitched Saturday, when he wrapped up a 196-pitch week — over the course of four days — with 3 1/3 innings in a start against the Seawolves.
UMaine also has Voisine, lefthander Jon Balentina, Whitten, Steve Trask of Saco and Eric White of Brewer available along with Shaun Coughlin, who struggled in Wednesday’s start.