ORONO, Maine — Two weeks ago, the University of Maine baseball team needed some late-inning heroics to beat Division III Colby College.
Tuesday evening, the Division I Black Bears made sure they didn’t have to come from behind against the University of Maine-Presque Isle, another DIII team.
Fran Whitten’s two-run home run put an exclamation point on a seven-run first inning that included four extra-base hits to set the tone for a 21-3 victory at Mahaney Diamond.
“Our goal was to get a few runs early and be able to play ahead,” said sophomore Scott Heath of Westbrook, who drove in three runs with two doubles among 22 hits by the Black Bears.
“We haven’t been doing that lately and we put up seven in the first [inning], which was good for us, good for our confidence. We ended up putting a lot of runs on the board,” he added.
Eight of UMaine’s starters registered at least one hit as coach Steve Trimper’s Black Bears (26-17) finally generated some offense after having trouble scoring runs in their last two America East series. UMaine had nine doubles, a triple and the homer.
Heath, who has played sparingly of late after enduring a protracted slump at the plate, lined a two-run double in the first and an RBI double in the seventh.
“It’s good to finally get back out there and help the team,” Heath said.
“I started almost overswinging and then overthinking it a bit,” he explained of his approach. “I started to kind of cut back and be more relaxed up there and try to take my [opposite-field] approach into the game instead of trying to do too much or put too much pressure on myself.”
UMaine takes on UMaine-Farmington (9-22) in a 5 p.m. game Wednesday.
For coach Leo Saucier’s UMPI team (12-23), the game was a rare chance to take on a Division I ballclub. That challenge was magnified for Owls sophomore Ghazaleh [pronounced AZ-uh-lay] Sailors, who is believed to be the first woman ever to play in a college game at Mahaney Diamond.
“I think it’s an opportunity to come out and play in a Division I game. It’s pretty cool,” said Sailors, who came across the country from her home in Santa Barbara, Calif., to play baseball at UMPI.
“The odds are against you, but it’s up to you to make the most of it and have fun and do what you can do,” she added after pitching a scoreless eighth inning, one of only three on the evening for UMPI.
Sailors fouled out to first base for the final out of the game in her only at-bat.
Freshman right-hander Logan Fullmer (2-3) allowed three hits and an unearned run in three innings and was credited with the win. The Bears used five other pitchers.
Mike Fransoso, Alex Calbick, Whitten and Colin Gay were the offensive catalysts for the Bears. Fransoso knocked in three runs with three singles and a sacrifice fly and Gay had a double, a two-run triple and a single.
Calbick finished with a double and two singles. Whitten drove in three runs with the homer and an RBI single and freshman Shane Bussey added a double, two singles and four RBIs.
Despite the drubbing, the game was meaningful to the UMPI players.
“A lot of these guys are from Maine and you grow up and it’s the only DI school in the area,” Sailors said. “It’s pretty much a dream come true for them. They wanted to be Black Bears when they were little, and a lot of people do, and a lot of people want to play DI sports.”
Tanner Marshall paced the Owls offense with a triple and a single, while Carlos Villoria posted two singles.
“We had 10 hits today against Division I pitchers,” said UMPI coach Leo Saucier. “Believe me, they’re not trying to give up hits. They want to get guys out.”
Maine put the Owls on their collective heels with the seven-run first against UMPI ace Jake Fillebrown (2-5) of Stoneham.
“He’s a senior, he’s going to med school,” said Saucier, who juggled his staff last weekend to allow the righty to pitch. “He’s a great student, a great kid, been a team captain for two years.”
Gay lined a leadoff double to center and Sam Balzano of Portland walked before both advanced on a wild pitch. The first run scored on a passed ball, then Fransoso made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly.
Calbick followed with a hard, ground-ball single through the middle, setting up a series of three consecutive doubles by Brian Doran, Eric White of Brewer (2 RBIs) and Heath (2 RBIs).
Whitten made it 7-0 when he yanked a three-run blast over the right-field fence.
“I knew if he couldn’t get them out, we were just going to run out all our pitchers, because we’ve got three days before we finish up [the season] on the weekend,” Saucier said.