ORONO, Maine — Steve Trask long ago accepted his role as a seldom-used relief pitcher for the University of Maine.
He had worked 1 2/3 innings this season and only 22 innings in his career.
On Sunday morning, the senior left-hander from Saco received an opportunity to show his stuff and demonstrated the depth of his character and resolve.
Trask limited the University of Maryland Baltimore County to seven hits over 11 2/3 innings, but gave up a run in his final inning as the Retrievers eked out a 2-1 baseball America East victory at Mahaney Diamond.
“This year, I’ve been out to lunch because I knew I wasn’t going to throw that much,” admitted the former Thornton Academy standout, who was told last week that he would start the game.
“It’s mental. You’ve just got to go out there and compete, focus on what you’ve got to do,” he added.
The defeat provided a bittersweet ending to “Senior Day” as UMaine recognized eight outgoing team members prior to the game. Trask stole the show.
“It was all heart,” UMaine senior Troy Black said of Trask’s effort. “It’s just amazing to see a guy who doesn’t get a lot of opportunities go out, just for the love of playing baseball, and do whatever he can for the team.”
Coach Steve Trimper’s Black Bears (24-27, 10-11 AE) go into the America East tournament as the No. 4 seed. They’ll play No. 1 Stony Brook (33-16, 18-5 AE) in Thursday’s 2 p.m. first-round game at LeLacheur Park in Lowell, Massachusetts.
UMBC (17-29, 7-17 AE) split six regular-season games with UMaine, but did not qualify for the tournament. The Retrievers snapped an 11-game conference losing streak.
In contrast to Friday’s offensive fireworks by the Black Bears (25 runs, 28 hits), Sunday’s finale was a pitching duel between Trask and UMBC lefty Joe Vanderplas.
Trask (0-1) was a workhorse. He located a soft cut fastball and a two-seam fastball on his way to four strikeouts and two walks.
Trask threw 141 pitches — 89 for strikes.
“He just wanted to go out and create a great memory,” Trimper said. “He had two pitches he was mixing and kept them off balance. Unfortunately, we didn’t get him the win.”
Vanderplas, a sophomore, matched Trask for nine innings. He afforded UMaine just five hits and one unearned run with five strikeouts, a walk and a hit batter.
Vanderplas, who threw 97 pitches, had the Bears guessing most of the way.
UMBC scored the winning run after two were out in the 12th. Jake Barnes pulled a double off the left-field fence and came home to score when D.J. Smith punched an opposite-field single to right field.
“It was a two-seamer that just ran over the middle. I tried to go inside and he made a good swing on it,” Trask said.
Kevin Lachance paced the Retrievers with two hits, including a run-scoring single with two out in the sixth. Rob McCabe singled twice.
Senior Colin Gay sparked the Bears with three singles, including a game-tying, two-out RBI hit in the eighth off Vanderplas.
Dennis Mikush (2-3) pitched three innings of one-hit relief with three strikeouts to pick up the victory for UMBC.
Trask had a no-hitter going for 5 2/3 innings, but McCabe pulled a hard single to right in the sixth to end the bid. He raced all the way home from first when Lachance laced a double down the left-field line.
“I was 0-2 and I left my cutter right over the middle. I should have buried it [in the turf],” Trask said.
UMaine equalized in the eighth, aided by a one-out throwing error by second baseman Vince Corbi that allowed Kyle Silva to reach safely.
One out later, Luke Morrill of South Thomaston worked a walk, then Gay pulled a single to left that scored pinch runner Sam Balzano of Portland.
UMaine, which went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, threatened in the 11th against Mikush. Black chopped an infield single to shortstop and moved up on Scott Heath’s sacrifice bunt.
However, Alex Calbick grounded out to second and, after Brian Doran was hit by a pitch, Mikush struck out Nick Bernardo to end the inning.
“We know he’s got the gamer mentality,” Bernardo said of Trask, his roomate for four years. “That was special. I wanted to get it for him.”