ORONO, Maine — Stony Brook took America East baseball to new heights last season when it surged all the way to the College World Series.
The University of Maine, which was among the teams to be eliminated by the Seawolves along the way, went into its fall workouts motivated to get a taste of the Omaha experience.
Coach Steve Trimper’s ballclub recently finished up an enthusiastic season of fall ball.
“I’m very impressed and happy with the motivation of the team to play as a team,” he said. “We practiced so well.”
With a positive attitude and strong work ethic, the Black Bears appear to have considerably more depth across the board.
Part of the reason for the team’s versatility is the ability of several players to contribute in more than one role.
“We have a lot of guys still fighting for positions,” Trimper said. “We’re two deep at every position.”
Among those who could help out both in the field and on the pitcher’s mound are junior catcher Mike Connolly and a trio of Mainers — junior infielder Eric White of Brewer and sophomore first basemen/outfielders Scott Heath of Westbrook and Luke Morrill of South Thomaston.
“[White] had the best fall of anybody on our team — defensively, on the mound and as a hitter,” Trimper said. “He’s going to be in our lineup somewhere.”
The pitching staff is rounding into shape, led by junior transfer Tommy Lawrence, junior All-America East right-hander Sean Coughlin and senior A.J. Bazdanes, who is coming off Tommy John elbow surgery. Juniors D.J. Voisine and Fran Whitten, who also can play in the outfield, are other mound veterans.
Sophomore Manny Pupo, whom Trimper called the “sleeper” of the fall, and sophomore Dane Gordon, also will vie for innings.
Heading up the newcomers are righties Logan Fullmer, Charlie Butler and Alex Gagne, along with Nick DeFrank, who also plays in the infield. Bert Fitzpatrick, who is recovering from a shoulder issue, and Jake Marks, a New York Mets draft choice who arrives in January, are other hopefuls.
“We’re not going to put a lot of pressure on our younger pitchers to have to go out there and do it right away,” Trimper said.
Senior all-conference shortstop Mike Fransoso sat out the fall after another hip surgery, providing DeFrank and freshman Shane Bussey with the chance to show their stuff playing between second baseman Troy Black and third baseman Alex Calbick, two juniors.
Trimper said senior All-AE catcher Tyler Patzalek has dropped some weight and is in great shape but likely will share duty behind the plate with Connolly.
He expects UMaine’s infield defense to be outstanding and is enthused about a speedy corps of outfielders led by junior Colin Gay and sophomore Sam Balzano of Portland.
Sophomore Brian Doran, Whitten, junior Nick Bernardo and freshman Luke Mogel also are expected to be in the mix.
“I think they could be as good as any outfield in the country,” said Trimper, who is eager for preseason preparations to begin in January.
“We’ve got a ton of work to do, but the guys have bought into it and said, ‘Coach, we’re going to work our fannies off,’” he said.