LOWELL, Mass. — The University of Maine’s road to the America East baseball championship took a sudden turn to the southeast on Saturday afternoon.
The Black Bears’ scheduled 3 p.m. conference title game against Binghamton University has been pushed to Sunday, at a new location, because of rain.
America East officials decided on Saturday to give up their battle against rainy conditions at LeLacheur Park and move to the University of Rhode Island for a decisive game on Sunday.
“If we had a clearing here [Saturday] afternoon, we would have been able to play here,” said Chad Dwyer, America East assistant commissioner for championships.
“They took the tarp off earlier and the infield had still held up pretty well, so we would have been able to do that,” he continued. “But with the weather the way it was, we felt like we had to make a decision to get the game in. It didn’t sit well with us to not finish the championship.”
Top-seeded UMaine (37-21) and No. 2 Binghamton (29-23) are now slated to play the winner-take-all finale Sunday at 2 p.m. at Bill Beck Field in Kingstown, R.I. The facility features an artificial FieldTurf similar to that installed at Mahaney Diamond in Orono.
“As a coach, all I talk about all year is adversity and overcoming adversity,” UMaine coach Steve Trimper said before boarding the bus to make the two-hour trip from Lowell, Mass., to a hotel in Newport, R.I.
“The guys are relishing it,” he added. “We’re just here to play. You can’t control the umpires and you can’t control the weather and the conference is doing everything it can to get the games in.”
There has been considerable rain in Lowell since the event began Wednesday, although only one game was not completed because of the conditions. That was UMaine’s Thursday night contest against Binghamton, which was delayed by nearly an hour, then was suspended and completed Friday afternoon.
“It’s been an interesting experience, for sure, with the poor weather, but the guys with the Lowell Spinners have been great,” Dwyer said. “I don’t know many other facilities where we would have been able to get six games in in the last three days with the type of weather we had.”
LeLacheur Park absorbed considerable rain during Friday’s championship-round game between UMaine and Binghamton, and the areas that weren’t covered by the tarp continued to take on a light rain that fell during the day Saturday.
The warning track area in front of the dugouts had significant standing water.
“We were really trying to get games in, but also not put anyone in the situation where the student-athlete welfare was at risk,” Dyer said. “It was a tough balancing act, but I think overall getting the games in went pretty well.”
By choosing not to play Saturday, America East brought another key dynamic into play. Dwyer acknowledged LeLacheur Park is not available as an AAU baseball tournament is being held there Sunday and Monday.
Dwyer credited America East Commissioner Amy Huchthausen with procuring a suitable facility to play the championship game on Sunday.
“Our commissioner, Amy Huchthausen, was instrumental in it, just making phone calls,” he said.
“Any natural-grass field or surface in the New England area was going to be saturated in after the last three days, so the other kind of important piece was the turf,” Dwyer added.
Trimper said he is pleased the championship is going to be decided on the field.
“It’s going to be a one-game showdown and now we’re going to have a little bit more rest and they are, too,” he said.
“We’ll just try to get it done tomorrow. We’ve got a great year to finish.”