ORONO, Maine — There has been some inconsistency this season for the University of Maine baseball team.
It didn’t stop the Black Bears from earning a spot in the America East tournament.
Scott Heath of Westbrook and Shaun Coughlin combined on a four-hit shutout Sunday afternoon, sending UMaine into the postseason with a 7-0 victory over Albany at Mahaney Diamond.
The Black Bears split Saturday’s doubleheader, rallying to win the opener 9-4 before the Great Danes took the nightcap 6-4.
“I’m kind of viewing this as a new starting point, kind of forgetting about what’s happened this season, the ups and downs,” said senior Colin Gay, who sparked the offense with a double, two singles and two RBIs.
“We’ve been fighting these past couple weeks just to get into the tournament, but once we’re in the tournament, anybody can win it,” said junior Sam Balzano of Portland.
Former UMaine associate head coach Jason Spaulding, whose contract will not be renewed for undisclosed reasons, it was revealed on Friday, was not with the team and is not expected to return.
The finale was a well-rounded effort by UMaine (21-26, 8-10 AE). Heath, in his first outing since April 20 because of a sore elbow, pitched four innings of three-hit ball.
“My arm felt good. It was just a matter of getting me some work for the real important games coming up,” Heath said.
Coughlin (4-5), who was shelled in his previous start at Stony Brook, dominated Sunday. He gave up one hit with five strikeouts in five innings.
“The difference today was keeping it down, pitching with a second pitch (his slider) and moving it around,” Maine head coach Steve Trimper said.
Brian Doran doubled and singled with an RBI for the Bears.
Cory Kingston had a double and a single to lead Albany (10-32, 5-16 AE), which was eliminated from playoff contention.
The Bears scored all the runs they would need in the top of the first against Joey Moore (0-1). Balzano fouled off a handful of pitches during a 12-pitch at-bat that ended with a leadoff walk.
He stole second and scored on Gay’s double to left. After a balk, Heath lined an RBI single to right and moved up on the throw. Two outs later, Doran singled through the middle to make it 3-0.
“It takes the weight off our shoulders scoring in the first inning,” Gay said.
UMaine added two runs in the fourth with the aid of Balzano’s RBI infield hit and scored twice in the eighth, with Gay posting an RBI single.
On Saturday, the baseball gods were smiling on UMaine when an apparent blown call by the third-base umpire opened the door for a game-tying, three-run rally in the seventh.
“We were a little surprised, but we needed it,” UMaine’s Jonathan Salcedo said. “Sometimes you need a little help. It gave us that little extra boost that we needed to get things going.”
Doran singled, advanced on two wild pitches and scored on Luke Morrill’s fielder’s choice. Balzano singled to left, which brought up Gay.
He hit a shot inside third base that was stabbed by Charlie Peltz, who popped up and appeared to beat Morrill to the bag for an inning-ending forceout.
However, the umpire ruled Morrill safe.
“It was kind of surprising, but we ended up being able to take advantage of it,” said Heath, who then roped a two-run double off the right-field fence to ie it.
The Bears broke it open with six runs in the eighth with the aid of Heath’s two-run single and a two-run home run by Alex Calbick.
Senior Tommy Lawrence (7-4) pitched his fourth straight complete game. He allowed eight hits, hit four batters and walked one. He struck out four.
Salcedo lined a double and a two-run single and Balzano added a single.
“It’s nice that we had a chance to get some big hits going and score some runs in that first game,” Trimper said.
Evan Harasta hit a two-run single for Albany, which got a double, a single and an RBI from Richard Bacon and an RBI single from Jeff VonMoser. Brian Bullard singled three times.
Reliever Daniel Castro (0-2) took the loss, giving up five hits and six runs in 1 1/3 innings.
In Game 2, lefty Brendan Ryan (2-2) pitched six innings of seven-hit, four-run ball with three strikeouts for Albany.
The Danes reached UMaine starter Jeff Gelinas of Saco (3-4) for eight hits and six runs in 4 1/3 innings.
Josh Nethaway drove in three runs with a double and a single, while Bullard hit a double and two singles with two RBIs.
Corey Kingston also posted three singles in Albany’s 12-hit attack.
Balzano (RBI) hit two singles and Nick Bernardo tripled and doubled to lead UMaine. Gay singled twice and Troy Black provided a two-run double.