June 18, 2018
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UMaine sweeps Binghamton to extend lead in America East baseball standings

By Pete Warner, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine only scored in two innings during Sunday’s America East baseball doubleheader against Binghamton University.

With their pitchers in command, the Black Bears still came away with a sweep at cold, windy Mahaney Diamond.

Starters Tommy Lawrence and A.J. Bazdanes each allowed two runs through seven innings respectively, as UMaine posted a 5-2 victory in the opener and a 3-2 decision in the second game.

“We actually were chasing right off the bat, so those days it’s nice to see our two starters go out there and grind it out,” said UMaine coach Steve Trimper, whose club spotted Binghamton a 2-0 lead in both games.

Saturday’s twinbill was postponed until Sunday because of cold, windy conditions. That forced cancellation of Sunday’s scheduled single game.

Sunday’s contests were played with temperatures in the low 40s and a southerly wind at 15 mph gusting much higher at times.

“It certainly wasn’t an easy day to hit. The wind chills were still down there. It was better than yesterday,” added Trimper, whose Black Bears (17-14, 8-3 AE) have extended their lead in the conference standings to 1 1/2 games over Albany and Hartford. Binghamton (14-11, 5-6 AE) slipped from second place to fourth.

Clutch offensive performances were the difference for UMaine, which registered eight of its 17 hits and scored seven of its eight runs after two were out.

“Both teams played pretty well, [it’s] just that we got a couple big hits in that inning,” Trimper said. “Today’s name of the game was two-out RBIs.”

In the first game, Colin Gay’s two-run single capped a five-run rally as the Bears erased a 2-0 deficit with the game-changing outburst in the sixth inning against starter Jake Lambert (3-1).

Scott Heath of Westbrook, Eric White of Brewer, Mike Connolly and Troy Black posted consecutive two-out singles to help UMaine gain the upper hand.

Mike Fransoso ignited the uprising with an opposite-field single down the line in left and advanced on Alex Calbick’s sacrifice bunt. Brian Doran grounded out for the second out.

After Fransoso scored on a wild pitch, Heath pulled a single through the right side, then White spanked a hit-and-run single to right-center.

Connolly blooped a run-scoring single to center field to tie it, then stole second. Black delivered an RBI infield single with the eventual winning run.

Sam Balzano of Portland walked, before Gay greeted lefty reliever Mike Kaufman by lacing a two-run single to right to provide the winning margin.

“It started with one spark, somebody got on, scored that run and then guys just started piling it on, which was good,” Fransoso said.

Lawrence (5-2) overcame a sluggish start to scatter seven hits while going the distance. The junior right-hander gave up only one earned run, registered seven strikeouts and walked one. He threw 113 pitches, 73 for strikes (65 percent).

“Our hitting definitely had our back today,” Lawrence said. “We were back against the wall, down 2-0 in the first game, down 2-0 in the second game. They battled and they were able to get big hits at big times.”

Fransoso collected three hits, including a double. White posted two singles among the Bears’ 11 hits.

Zack Blanden stroked a triple and two singles and scored a run to pace Binghamton. Jake singled twice and knocked in a run.

Lambert, a 6-foot-9 right-hander, kept the Bears off-balance and off the scoreboard through the first five innings. However, he could not register the third out in the sixth. Lambert struck out three and walked one.

Binghamton took a 1-0 lead in the first when Blanden led with a triple and scored on Jake Thomas’ single to left.

In the second, Shawn McGraw singled and took second on an errant throw, was bunted to third and rode home on Blanden’s single to right.

In Game 2, Thomas jacked a two-run home run to right in the first, but the visitors would not score again.

“I went inside, tried to beat him, but it was supposed to be up and I threw it a little too low and just right in his zone,” Bazdanes said.

The senior right-hander (4-3), bounced back to shut out the Bearcats on three hits over the next 6 2/3 innings. He allowed only five hits and struck out four. He hit one batter.

“Our defense was incredible today, which it’s been all year,” Bazdanes said. “If it wasn’t for eight or nine plays that they made, this game could be much different.”

Junior Mike Connolly shed his catcher’s gear and retired all six batters he faced to earn his first save of the season.

UMaine scored all three of its runs in the the third against Jake Rogalia (2-2), who gave up seven hits with five strikeouts, a walk and a hit batsman in six innings.

Calbick roped a leadoff double to center and rode home on Doran’s hard, opposite-field single to left-center. Doran moved up on Heath’s sacrifice bunt and reached third one out later when Connolly singled through the left side.

Black cashed in, carving a pop-fly single down the left-field line that scored the tying and winning runs.

“You just find ways to win,” Black said. “Sometimes, it’ll be scraping a run an inning, stuff like that, but we’re just willing ourselves to get runs.”

Black also doubled and Balzano singled twice for the Bears, who had eight hits and received two diving catches by right fielder Doran.

Thomas also singled for Binghamton.

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