ORONO, Maine — Mike Connolly has demonstrated considerable versatility this season while serving as the starting catcher and a member of the regular pitching rotation for the University of Maine.
Wednesday evening, he took the concept to a new level at Mahaney Diamond.
The junior standout accomplished a rare baseball feat when he played each of the nine positions during the Black Bears’ 11-1 victory over the University of Maine-Farmington.
“It was fun,” said Connolly, who started the game at second base.
“The next inning [coach Steve Trimper] said, just flip-flop with Mike [Fransoso], you play short,” explained Connolly, who wasn’t sure what Trimper’s plan was until he was told to play third base in the third, and then first in the fourth inning.
“Today was the first time I ever played first base in a game,” admitted Connolly, who is on the watch list for the John Olerud Award given to the top two-way player in college baseball. “I didn’t have any putouts, but it was pretty cool.”
Connolly later played right field, center and left, pitching to one batter in the seventh. He caught the eighth inning, before taking a well-deserved break in the ninth.
“He’s a very versatile player,” Trimper said. “He could be our starting shortstop, our second baseman, our third baseman.”
Connolly was hitless in three at-bats.
The Division I Black Bears (27-17) fell behind the Division III Beavers (9-23) early, but scored three times in the bottom of the first inning for all the runs they would need.
Starter Scott Heath of Westbrook (1-2) and Shaun Coughlin each pitched three innings, with Heath surrendering the run in the first inning before the staff put up eight straight zeroes against the Beavers.
Eric White of Brewer paced the UMaine offense with a double, three singles and three RBIs. He pointed to the contrast of facing the 95 mph fastball of Hartford’s Sean Newcomb on Sunday, then taking on UMaine-Farmington.
“We took some extra BP [batting practice] today and I was just trying to carry that over,” White said.
“You’ve just got to get your timing down early in your first at-bat and try to work from there,” he added.
Junior classmate Fran Whitten cranked a solo home run to go with a double and a single. He has not had much playing time of late, but also posted a homer among three hits in Tuesday’s rout of UMaine-Presque Isle.
“I’ve been really focused in BP and taking some extra swings and I think it’s transferred over to the games lately,” Whitten said.
“Sometimes I get antsy and swing at pitches I probably shouldn’t in an attempt to do well enough to get in the weekend lineup,” he added.
Freshman Brendan Geary belted a solo homer, the first of his career.
Matt Woodbury of Fairfield paced UMaine-Farmington at the plate with two triples, including an RBI shot down the right field line in the first inning.
“It was awesome,” the sophomore catcher said of taking on UMaine. “Obviously, all those players are really good. To get the hits off them, it felt really good.”
Brothers Zach and Ben Keene of Livermore Falls each hit two singles for the Beavers, who completed their season.
UMF starter Ben Pearson (1-6) kept his team in contention for most of his 5 1/3-inning stint. The junior righthander scattered seven hits, including only one for extra bases.
Pearson was charged with nine runs, all of them earned. He struck out six, walked six and hit two batters.