ORONO, Maine — Runs were scarce at Kessock Field on Wednesday afternoon as America East front-runners UMass Lowell and the University of Maine squared off in the Black Bears’ home opener.
Two freshman right-handers stole the limelight as UMaine’s Kyleigh O’Donnell threw a two-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts in the nightcap to help the Black Bears earn a split courtesy of a 3-0 triumph.
UMass Lowell’s Lovina Capria fired a one-hitter in a 1-0, eight-inning win in the opener.
UMaine is 14-16 overall, 5-2 in the league, while the River Hawks are 12-18 and 6-2, respectively.
In the second game, the hard-throwing O’Donnell allowed only two singles, walked three and hit a batter to go with her 12 strikeouts.
“Most of my pitches were working today,” said the 5-foot-10 O’Donnell, who is from Abington, Mass. “My screwball was going hard and moving inside (on right-handed hitters) the way I wanted it to. And my drop-curve was moving outside.
“It was a good day,” added O’Donnell, whose teammates supported her by playing errorless ball and pushing across three sixth-inning runs off UML starter Kaysee Talcik.
“Kyleigh did a good job in the circle,” said UMass Lowell coach Danielle Henderson. “She mixed it up enough to keep us off-balance.”
Sophomore left fielder and former Bangor High standout Emily Gilmore, making her 11th career start, triggered the sixth-inning rally with a leadoff infield hit as her soft liner dropped in front of third baseman Sarah Ratcliffe.
“That was huge. That gave us momentum,” said UMaine senior first baseman Kristen Niland.
“I was just trying to get something going,” said Gilmore, whose hit was her third of the season in 25 at-bats. “I was looking for an inside pitch and she threw me one. I mishit it a little but I got lucky because (Ratcliffe) bobbled it.
“It felt great to finally be able to help everyone out. It was a great team win,” Gilmore said.
With Ratcliffe drawn in to play a bunt, Rachel Carlson slapped an opposite-field single past her.
South Portland’s Laurine German then executed a perfectly-placed two-strike bunt single past Talcik’s left side to load the bases.
Maddie Decker delivered Gilmore with an opposite-field sacrifice fly to right.
“I was just thinking about putting the ball in play, maybe hitting a deep ball to the right side to score the run,” said Decker. “I couldn’t have been more proud of Emily for getting the inning started.”
The runners moved to second and third on the throw to the plate and run-producing bunts by Erika Leonard and Alyssa Derrick expanded the lead to 3-0.
“We obviously executed at the end there and did what we needed to do to win. But we’ve got to swing the bats better,” said UMaine coach Mike Coutts.
In the opener, a two-out run-scoring double from junior designated hitter Sydney Barker in the eighth inning backed Capria’s gem.
The 6-foot Capria, of Deltona, Florida, was in complete command against the worst-hitting team in America East.
UMaine is hitting .231 after the twinbill.
She struck out six, walked three and hit a batter but the Black Bears hit only two balls out of the infield against her. She threw 102 pitches of which 66 were strikes.
The only hit off her was German’s infield single into the shortstop hole to lead off the fourth inning.
“She did a great job. She had some incredible movement on her ball,” said UMaine junior catcher Decker.
UMaine ace righty Annie Kennedy was touched up for nine hits but the senior right-hander continually pitched out of jams until the eighth.
Sara Siteman started the eighth-inning rally with a line-drive single to right off the top of second baseman Sarah Coyne’s glove and she was sacrificed to second by Casey Harding.
Vanessa Cooper grounded to second but Barker lined Kennedy’s first pitch into left-center for her second double of the game.
“It was a curve and I left it too far over the plate,” said Kennedy, who pitched a complete game with one strikeout and a career-high three walks.
The River Hawks had runners on in six of the eight innings but Kennedy came up with clutch pitches when she had to and center fielder Carlson threw out a runner at the plate in the seventh.
Barker, a .184 hitter entering the doubleheader, and Marianne Sparacia, who had two singles, were the game’s repeat hitters.