ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine baseball team will go into the America East Baseball Championship as the conference regular-season champion and the tournament’s No. 1 seed.
The Black Bears also will be coming off a loss.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County ended a 21-game losing streak against UMaine on Saturday, scoring three runs in the ninth inning to earn a 6-5 victory at Mahaney Diamond.
Anthony Gatto’s two-run single off Bears ace Tommy Lawrence accounted for the winning run as the last-place Retrievers (18-30, 9-21 AE) ended their season on a winning note and spoiled UMaine’s Senior Day.
“This loss kind of sucks a little bit, but what are you going to do?” said UMaine junior Troy Black, who led the Black Bears with three hits. “You’ve got to get ready for the tournament now, get back up. We’re all ramped up, so it should be fun.”
Coach Steve Trimper’s team (34-20, 20-9 AE) will open the four-team, double-elimination tournament at 4 p.m. Wednesday against No. 4 seed and defending champion Stony Brook (24-32, 15-15 AE) at LeLacheur Park.
In the 8 p.m. contest, No. 2 Binghamton (27-22, 16-13 AE) meets No. 3 Albany (23-23-1, 16-14 AE).
“Now, your regular season’s done and we’re on to postseason play and everything gets flushed,” Trimper said.
“We’ve played well until now, but we’ve got to play well in the tournament.”
On Saturday, UMaine appeared to be in control, taking a 5-3 lead into the ninth inning. UMBC responded with a game-winning rally.
Reliever Fran Whitten got the first out before Mark Esposito lined a single to center field and Rob McCabe reached on a chopper toward the middle that could not be handled by shortstop Mike Fransoso.
Trimper brought in Lawrence to get the last two outs. He induced a popup on his first pitch, but then walked Kevin LaChance to load the bases.
Jesse Smith plated the first run with an infield single toward shortstop, then Gatto fisted a soft liner to right-center that plated the tying and go-ahead runs.
“Ninety-nine time out of a hundred, if I put him in the game, he’s going to get it done,” Trimper said. “They just got a couple of timely hits, a couple of little chinkers that fell in, and that’s the game of baseball.”
It was the first loss in league play for Lawrence (9-3), who had not appeared in relief this season.
UMBC’s Jon Cohn (4-4) then worked around a two-out double in the ninth by Scott Heath of Westbrook by getting Fransoso to ground out for the final out.
Gatto also had another single for the Retrievers, while Jake Barnes and LaChance each singled twice and drove in a run. Esposito also finished with two singles.
Black’s three singles headed UMaine’s 13-hit attack. Shane Bussey singled twice and drove in a run, Heath added a single and Fransoso plated two runs with a single.
UMBC took a 2-0 lead in the third against freshman starter Logan Fullmer, who allowed seven hits and three runs (two earned) in six innings.
The two-out rally started with Esposito’s single to center, a walk to McCabe and consecutive RBI singles by Barnes and LaChance.
UMaine responded with four runs in the bottom of the inning. Black singled with one out and took third on a throwing error by third baseman Esposito. UMBC starter Mac Gill walked Eric White of Brewer to load the bases.
Alex Calbick and Brian Doran followed with run-scoring singles, then Fransoso delivered a two-run single to center. It was the senior’s first hit since he was hit in the eye by a pitch Tuesday at Boston College.
“It just kind of came back naturally once I got that first at-bat out of the way,” said Fransoso, who was recognized before the game along with fellow senior A.J. Bazdanes and fourth-year players D.J. Voisine and Fran Whitten.
“Then, it was just kind of normal stepping in after that,” Fransoso added. “I really didn’t even think about it.”
Fransoso went 1-for-4 with a walk.
The Retrievers answered with a run in the fifth when Corbi singled, but he was erased on Esposito’s bunt. Barnes singled to left, before Esposito moved up on a pitch in the turf and scored on an errant throw by catcher Mike Connolly.
UMaine added an insurance run in the eighth when Colin Gay singled, took third on an errant pickoff throw, and came home on Bussey’s sharp single to right.