ORONO, Maine — Steve Trimper and his staff use the fall season for molding next year’s team into shape.
With two key pitchers sitting out, two seniors switching positions and some productive starters departed, the University of Maine coach had plenty to evaluate.
“Our fall season is used to do a ton of evaluations, see where your returning players are and look at your new kids and see where they can have an impact or fit in on the 2014 team,” Trimper said.
The 2013 Black Bears advanced to the championship game of the America East tournament before losing to Binghamton and finishing with a 37-22 record (20-9 AE).
UMaine is revamping its infield, moving Alex Calbick from first base back to third and shifting three-year second baseman Troy Black to shortstop. Sophomore Shane Bussey and freshman Skylar Mercado are the second-base candidates.
“We’ve got to shore up our infield defense. Fransoso is a big loss,” Trimper said.
“If we can make the routine plays in the middle of the infield behind our pitchers, we’ve got a chance to be a very good ballclub and build off the success of last year,” he added.
Calbick, who played mostly third base his first two seasons, had a stellar summer with the Bellingham Bells of the West Coast League. He batted a league-best .384 with five home runs and 26 runs batted in and was named the league MVP.
“Alex Calbick stands out, having a great summer and continuing into the fall, hitting at a torrid pace,” Trimper said.
Calbick recently was recognized as the 100th best player in the country by Collegiate Baseball Daily. He also was named to Perfect Game’s All-American First Team for summer college leagues.
“I think he’s mentally in a great state of mind. He’s very relaxed,” Trimper added.
With Calbick at third, junior Scott Heath of Westbrook and sophomore Brenden Geary will see time at first base.
Sophomore Jonathan Salcedo, who was a backup last season, will step in for Connolly, a San Francisco Giants draft pick, behind the plate. He likely will be backed up by freshman Pat Coughlin.
“Salcedo looks like a million bucks,” Trimper said. “He’s throwing the ball extremely well, came back in tremendous physical shape.”
UMaine has taken a developmental approach with its top two returning pitchers, seniors Tommy Lawrence and Shaun Coughlin. Both were held out of live game action during the fall.
Lawrence set a school record with 11 wins last season (11-3, 2.32 ERA) and worked 104 2/3 innings. He then pitched in the Cape Cod Baseball League, where he went 3-0 and won the John Claffey Award as the top New England Player.
He worked 133 innings in 2013.
Coughlin (2-1, 3.20 ERA) pitched only 39 1/3 innings in this after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery in 2012.
“They did a throwing program that was an arm-strength builder,” Trimper said. “Shaun has never been a guy that throws above 85 and the last two weeks of the fall he was at 87-90. I think it might have helped out.”
A veteran outfield crew includes senior Colin Gay and juniors Brian Doran and Sam Balzano of Portland. Junior-college transfer Steven Adam and freshman Jake Osborne also are in the mix.
“We think he can be a middle-of-the-lineup hitter,” Trimper said in praising Doran’s development.
He also mentioned freshman Jeff Gelinas of Saco, who can pitch and play in the infield.
Seniors Lawrence, Black, Calbick and Colin Gay have been named UMaine’s captains for 2014.
Trimper said the good weather was a plus during the fall season, while he was happy with the offseason progress made by the veterans.
“We’ve got a ton of offensive ability,” he said, pointing out the team’s overall power from left-center to right-center. “We run like the wind so I think we’re going to have that weapon of putting pressure on defenses with our legs.”
The Friends of Maine Hockey boosters group is putting on a free hockey clinic for women only on Thursday from 7-9 p.m. in the Alfond Family Lounge at Alfond Arena. The UMaine coaching staff will explain the rules of the game, show game video and answer questions.
There will be door prizes, raffles and light refreshments.