The University of Maine had numerous opportunities to force a final game against the University of Maryland, Baltimore County on Sunday in the America East baseball tournament.
But the Black Bears could not capitalize.
Zach Bright drew a four-pitch walk off UMaine closer Jeff Gelinas in the bottom of the 10th inning, lifting the Retrievers to a 2-1 victory and the conference title at LeLacheur Park in Lowell, Massachusetts.
Second-seeded UMBC (23-23) earns America East’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament while No. 5 UMaine, which rattled off four straight wins after Wednesday’s opening-game loss, finished up at 25-29.
Interim coach Nick Derba’s resilient Black Bears had reached the championship round after eliminating No. 1 Binghamton 8-3 and No. 4 Albany 12-5 on Saturday.
UMaine threatened early and often on Sunday, but could not score again after posting a run in the first inning. The Bears left 12 men on base, including eight in scoring position.
Jeremy Pena sparked the 13-hit attack with a double and three singles and Lou Della Ferra singled three times, while Brandon Vicens (double) and Caleb Kerbs each posted two hits.
However, UMaine scored its only run on a Chris Bec sacrifice fly.
Starter Justin Courtney of Bangor and Saco native Gelinas combined to limit the Retrievers to nine hits, with Courtney spacing seven hits and a run with two strikeouts through five innings.
Gelinas worked 4 2/3 innings and surrendered only two hits, but struggled with his control late and wound up walking five (one intentional) to go with his three strikeouts.
Hunter Dolshun singled twice among nine hits for UMBC, which stranded seven baserunners. Christian Torres provided a single and an RBI on a sacrifice fly and Bright also provided a single and an RBI.
Connor Staskey and Jacob Christian teamed up to pitch 5 1/3 innings of five-hit shutout ball. Staskey went 3 1/3 and allowed four hits in relief of starter Mitchell Wilson, who worked around eight hits and a walk to give up the single run over the first 4 2/3.
Christian closed it out with two innings of one-hit ball.
In the 10th, Gelinas walked leadoff man Mitchell Carr, who moved up on Andrew Casali’s sacrifice bunt. He took third on A.J. Wright’s groundout to third base.
Jamie Switalski drew a walk to set up a force, then Gelinas walked Dolshun intentionally to load the bases. However, Gelinas did not throw a strike to Bright, whose base on balls plated the winning run.
UMaine grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first when Pena walked, raced to third on Della Fera’s single and scored on Bec’s sacrifice fly. But the Bears’ struggles to score runners from scoring position began then and did not end.
UMBC tied the game in the bottom of the fourth against Courtney on Switalski’s leadoff single, a groundout, Bright’s one-out hit and Torres’ sac fly to left.
On Saturday, the Black Bears stayed alive with two more victories by continuing its strong pitching and picking up the key hits that were so elusive on Sunday.
In the nightcap, Eddie Emerson of Lewiston threw seven innings of six-hit, three-run relief in his longest career outing and Brandon Vicens’ two-run double highlighted a four-run fifth-inning rally to key the victory.
Emerson replaced Zach Winn in the first inning after Winn walked four and allowed two runs. Emerson struck out Alex Thul with the bases loaded to limit the damage and his mates backed him with 13 hits.
Brewer’s Matt Pushard relieved Emerson in the eighth with the bases loaded and two outs and induced an inning-ending fielder’s choice before pitching a scoreless ninth.
“We needed that from Eddie today. He saved our bullpen,” Derba said.
“My fastball was working and the guys played great defense behind me,” said Emerson, who struck out five and walked five.
After spotting Albany a 2-0 lead, UMaine tied it in the second on Hernen Sardinas’ RBI single and Cody Pasic’s sacrifice fly before taking the lead for good in the fourth on Sardinas’ run-scoring opposite-field double down the left field line.
In the four-run fifth, Jonathan Bennett ripped a crisp RBI single before Vicens roped his two-run, opposite-field double to right-center.
“[Albany] had pitched me [outside] last weekend, so I’ve been working with the coaches on hitting the ball to right. They threw me a high, outside fastball, and that’s what I did,” Vicens said.
Caleb Kerbs capped the rally with an RBI triple.
Albany got a run back in the bottom of the fifth, but UMaine added three in the sixth to expand the lead to 10-3. Pena walloped a two-run homer to left for UMaine in the seventh.
Schwanz, Bennett, Vicens and Sardinas all had two hits for UMaine, with Vicens and Sardinas each stroking a double.
Patrick Lagravinese had a double for 26-26 Albany.
In the first game, Cody Pasic belted a three-run double with two outs in the ninth inning and classmate Cody Laweryson tossed 3 2/3 innings of one-hit shutout relief as UMaine ousted Binghamton.
Binghamton concluded its season at 30-13.
UMaine clung to 4-3 advantage when Bec opened the ninth with a double. Schwanz singled and Bennett grounded to first with Schwanz moving to second and Bec remaining at third.
Vicens was intentionally walked and standout closer Dylan Stock came on to pitch to Sardinas, who greeted him with an RBI single on an 0-2 pitch. After Stock struck out Kerbs, Pasic drilled his opposite-field double over the left fielder’s head, again off an 0-2 pitch.
“I trusted my hands,” Pasic said.
Laweryson, a Moscow native who pitched at Valley High of Bingham, came on in relief of Connor Johnson in the sixth inning with one out and the tying run at third. Laweryson struck out Darian Herncane and induced C.J. Krowiak to fly out.
Laweryson retired the next seven hitters before Herncane reached him for a one-out infield single in the ninth. But, after issuing a walk, Laweryson retired the final two hitters to notch his first career save.
“I just did the same thing I’ve tried to do all year: keep the ball down,” Laweryson said. “My slider was working better today than it had been in recent games.”
John Arel went the first four innings for the Black Bears, allowing three runs on five hits with four walks and three strikeouts. He walked the first two hitters in the fifth, and he was replaced by Johnson (4-4), who picked up the win.
Bec (RBI) and Pasic each had a double and single for UMaine. Schwanz (RBI) and Pena had two singles each.
Anthony Meduri doubled and singled for Binghamton and Britt (RBI) singled twice. Jason Agresti had a double and a sacrifice fly.