ORONO, Maine — New Hampshire natives Mike Fransoso and A.J. Bazdanes have enjoyed some shining moments as members of the University of Maine baseball team.
This week, they will play on their home turf at Mahaney Diamond for the final time as the Black Bears close out the regular season with a three-game America East series against the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Bazdanes and Fransoso are the lone seniors on coach Steve Trimper’s ballclub (32-19, 18-8 AE), which entertains the last-place Retrievers (17-28, 8-19 AE ) for a 4 p.m. doubleheader on Friday and a 1 p.m. single game Saturday.
“We haven’t had a lot of seniors the last few years because we’ve had a few guys drafted,” Trimper said. “This should have been [Steve] Perakslis, [Jeff] Gibbs and those guys as seniors, too.”
UMaine plans a fireworks display after the Friday twinbill, while Saturday will be “Senior Day,” with Fransoso and Bazdanes to be recognized before the first pitch. Both were members of the Black Bears’ 2011 America East championship team.
The 6-foot, 175-pound Fransoso, who hails from Portsmouth, N.H., has been the Bears’ starting shortstop for four seasons. The co-captain has excelled at the plate, in the field and on the basepaths.
He was an All-America East first-team pick last season after earning second-team honors as a sophomore and all-rookie accolades as a freshman in 2010.
“Mike’s one of the most humble guys,” Trimper said. “He doesn’t look for numbers and status, he just goes out and plays the game extremely hard.”
Fransoso leads the team with a .368 batting average, 43 runs batted in and 41 runs scored. He also has recorded 16 doubles, three home runs and two triples. He is tied for the team lead with 19 stolen bases and earlier this season broke Mark Sweeney’s career record of 69.
Fransoso, who now has 73 steals, also ranks second in school history in both doubles (64), and runs scored (200). He needs two doubles to tie Sweeney’s mark of 66. He has played in 210 career games, despite having to overcome two hip surgeries.
“He has stats that mimic some of the greatest players in Maine baseball history,” Trimper said.
Fransoso, who features a .325 career batting average, is scheduled to see action against UMBC despite being hit in the right eye by a pitch Tuesday at Boston College. His prescription sports glasses are credited with helping him avoid a more serious injury.
“He knows that he’s not going to succeed all the time in baseball,” Trimper said. “When it doesn’t go his way, he’ll come back and get it turned around.”
Bazdanes has returned to have a strong senior season on the mound after coming back from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery. He sat out all of the 2012 campaign.
The 6-3, 220-pound right-hander from Nashua, N.H., has held down the No. 2 spot in the UMaine pitching rotation this spring. He has posted a 5-5 record with a 3.49 earned run average.
Bazdanes has allowed 79 hits in 85 innings with 60 strikeouts, 23 walks and 10 hit batsmen. Opponents are batting only .244 against him.
“A.J.’s a very fierce competitor and doesn’t like to lose and goes after it,” Trimper said. “I think his toughness is one of the things that stands out to most people.”
Bazdanes has appeared in 58 career games, compiling a 16-16 record with two saves and a 4.41 ERA with 243 strikeouts in 287⅔ innings.
He was an America East All-Rookie choice in 2009, then garnered all-conference second-team accolades as a sophomore in 2010 when he led the team in wins at 7-5.
However, Bazdanes also has learned to handle adversity with a calmer demeanor on the mound.
“What’s been really satisfying for A.J. and personally rewarding for me as his coach is that I’ve seen A.J. grown more than any player I’ve ever had,” Trimper said. “He’s matured immensely.”
Bazdanes also has learned to pitch to contract rather than trying to strike every batter out. He has walked only nine batters in his last eight outings.
Bazdanes is expected to see limited duty against UMBC as the Bears try to line up their pitching for the conference tournament, which begins Wednesday at Lowell, Mass.