May 23, 2018
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Lawrence, Bazdanes set gritty tone on mound for UMaine baseball team

By Pete Warner, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine baseball team demonstrated resilience and resolve on Sunday.

The Black Bears fell behind 2-0 early in both games of their America East doubleheader and had difficulty getting their offense in gear.

UMaine (18-14, 8-3 AE) still came away with a sweep, thanks in part to gritty pitching from starters Tommy Lawrence and A.J. Bazdanes. Both right-handers bore down after some early issues and held the Bearcats scoreless the rest of the way.

Lawrence, a junior transfer from Winthrop University, gave up single runs in the first and second innings but afforded the opponent only three hits after that.

“He’s a big gamer,” said UMaine coach Steve Trimper. “He might give up a run, but he’s not going to give up the big stuff.”

Lawrence (5-2) has been setting a stingy tone in the first game of the Bears’ league series. He is 4-0 in conference play with a 0.58 earned run average.

He has allowed only 22 hits in 31 innings with 27 strikeouts and five walks.

Senior shortstop Mike Fransoso said if the Bears can play defense and put up a few runs, they’re going to win with Lawrence on the mound.

“Tommy just goes out and he battles all seven innings, and he just waits for us to score those runs,” Fransoso said. “We know that we’re going to get a solid seven out of him, and he’s not going to allow too many earned runs.”

Bazdanes, a senior who missed last season after Tommy John surgery, has followed suit in the No. 2 spot in the starting rotation.

On Sunday, Binghamton’s Jake Thomas, the top hitter in league play at .400, hit a two-run home run off Bazdanes with one out in the first inning.

Bazdanes responded by retiring the eight straight batters and 15 of the next 16 men he faced.

“He came out and he only gave up three hits after that, went all the way through the seventh inning,” Trimper said. Trimper, who believes Bazdanes fed off Lawrence’s performance and the rest of the team, responded to the way they dealt with some early adversity.

“A.J.’s a veteran guy now. He’s that second guy that everybody’s looking up to,” he added.

Bazdanes (4-3) has been outstanding in his last three starts, limiting AE foes to 16 hits and six earned runs in 20 2/3 innings (2.61 ERA). He has racked up 17 strikeouts and only two walks.

Lawrence said the ability to shrug off some occasional struggles is a matter of maintaining a consistent approach, regardless of the situation.

“I feel like it’s the same, the same mentality, the whole time, really,” he said.

As for the hitters, who logged 19 hits in the twinbill but scored in only one inning in each game, they tried to remain patient and confident.

The result was a five-run sixth inning in the opener and a three-run fourth in the finale that proved enough offense for the pitchers.

“Our hitters were right in it, nobody got down,” Fransoso said. “We knew that we could come back from it. It was only two runs.”

UMaine stays in front

The cold-shortened sweep of Binghamton represents the fourth consecutive weekend the Black Bears have been victorious in a conference series.

UMaine maintained first place in the AE standings at 8-3, which gives it a 1 1/2-game lead over Hartford and Albany, both of which are 7-5.

“Whoever took two games was going to take the lead and run with it, hopefully,” Fransoso said. “We came out and played good baseball.”

UMaine hits the road in the hope of finding some warmer temperatures for its three-game set Saturday and Sunday at Maryland Baltimore County (8-14, 4-8 AE).

This year, UMaine is flying to Baltimore for the series. Last season, the team endured the arduous bus ride.

“Believe it or not, the flight prices we got are almost as good as the bus prices,” Trimper said.

The Bears will rent vans for transportation to and from the games and the airports.

UMaine flies out of Portland on Friday and lands in Baltimore, then will fly back into Bangor on Sunday night out of Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C.

“This just makes it a little bit easier. You get back at a decent hour,” Trimper said.

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