ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine baseball team was one strike away from an embarrassing loss to Division III Colby College of Waterville.
Division I Maine, which is leading America East, entered the game with a six-game winning streak while Colby had lost 10 in a row.
But consecutive two-out hits in the ninth inning by Eric White, Mike Connolly and Troy Black gave the Black Bears a 9-8 victory.
“Sometimes, you have to tip your cap [to an opponent],” said Connolly. “They played well. You can’t take anything away from them. But, somehow, we were able to squeak it out.”
Maine, which trailed 8-1 after three innings, was down 8-7 entering the ninth inning and Augusta’s Luke Duncklee, the center fielder, made a great leaping catch off Alex Calbrick’s liner in the right-center field gap to open the inning.
Brian Doran singled and Kyle Silva struck out before White reached on an infield single to second off an 0-2 pitch thrown by reliever Greg Ladd.
“He threw me a cutter [cut fastball] or a slider [across the outside corner]. I was just looking to put the ball in play to try to extend the game and get [Connolly] up,” said Brewer’s White, the reigning America East Player of the Week after he went .444 with three homers and eight RBIs.
Connolly then hit a soft liner into right to deliver Doran with the tying run.
“It wasn’t a bad pitch but, somehow, I was able to put my bat on it,” said Connolly.
“I threw them both cutters on the outside corner but they were able to stay with it,” said Ladd.
Black delivered White with a game-winning bunt single down the third base line after noticing that Mule third baseman Zachary Ellenthal was playing deep.
“I swung and fouled the first pitch off and I looked at the third baseman and said to myself ‘What’s he doing (playing so far back)?,” said Black. “So as long as I got the bunt down, I knew I was fast enough to get there and Eric was fast enough (to score).”
White had three singles for 22-14 Maine. Black homered and singled, Kyle Silva doubled twice and Colin Gay and Doran each had a pair of singles.
Luke Morrill picked up the win in relief with two innings of no-hit, shutout relief.
Nathan Ellis had four singles and three runs batted in for 7-12 Colby.
Colby built its 8-1 lead at the expense of ineffective freshman pitchers Logan Fullmer and Burk FitzPatrick.
Colby bunched together six hits in the second inning to score three runs off Fullmer. Andrew Currier belting a double to left center and Benjamin Crocker, Tyler Starks and Ellis contributing RBI singles.
FitzPatrick hurt himself with a throwing error in the third inning leading to five unearned runs before he was lifted in favor of D.J. Voisine. Ellis’ two-run single chased FitzPatrick and Alec Finigan greeted Voisine with a run-scoring ground rule double.
Voisine, Steve Trask and Morrill pitched six innings of two-hit shutout ball the rest of the way.
Maine scored three runs in the fourth on four hits, including Black’s solo homer to right and White’s RBI single, and three more in the seventh inning when they chased starter Mark Nelson, who turned in an impressive performance.
Nelson struck out three and walked three while allowing 10 hits and four earned runs.
Michael Fransoso and Doran had run-scoring singles in the seventh and there was also a throwing error on what appeared to be a tailor-made double-play grounder.
Ladd pitched out of a bases-loaded jam by inducing Black to fly out and he proceeded to strike out out the side in the eighth.
“Colby should have won the game,” said Maine coach Steve Trimper. “They completely outplayed us. Mark Nelson threw one of the best-pitched games I’ve seen. We didn’t deserve it. We may have only made one error, but we had four mental errors.”
“I went to my curve [a lot]. We just tried to keep them off-balance,” said Morse, who mixed in a well-placed fastball and effective slow curve.
“Mark and I challenged them. We threw strikes. But they came through at the end,” said Ladd, who struck out four and walked one in 2 2/3 innings.
Colby made five errors.
“The guys competed. They never quit. But we did a lot of things wrong,” said Colby coach and former Maine pitcher Dale Plummer.