April 06, 2020
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Black Bears sweep UMBC

ORONO — Ian Leisenheimer knocked in five runs Saturday and the University of Maine turned seven double plays to aid solid pitching as the Black Bears swept an America East doubleheader from Maryland Baltimore County.

UMaine won the opener 6-1 behind the pitching of Jonathan Balentina, then took the nightcap 7-3 on the strength of seven workmanlike innings by righthander A.J. Bazdanes.

“We work so hard to turn double plays in practice,” said coach Steve Trimper, whose Bears (22-13, 5-1 AE) entertain the Retrievers (5-24, 1-9 AE) in a Sunday doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. at Mahaney Diamond.

“It gets pitchers out of trouble,” he said. “That’s the difference today of close games or not close games is double plays.”

In Saturday’s first game, Balentina made a strong return to the starting rotation, pitching a seven-hitter.

The sophomore lefty (3-0) didn’t have his most effective assortment of pitches, but he spread out seven singles by locating his fastball well. Balentina was aided by superb defense by his teammates.

The Bears turned five double plays, including three that ended innings, and now have 49 in 35 games this spring.

One notable double play came in the third inning. With Shawn Retz at first and one out, Tom Meaney hit a ground ball toward the middle. Shortstop Tony Patane ranged behind the bag, made a lunging stop and, while falling, shoveled the ball with his glove to second baseman Danny Menendez. He made the relay throw to first to complete the twin-killing.

“[Assistant coach Jared] Holowaty, he really does hit us a lot of ground balls and makes us turn a lot of double plays in practice and it really does pay off in games,” Patane said. “That gets us out of big innings. It’s help for the pitchers. It’s help for everybody.”

UMaine took the lead for good in the fourth inning against lefthander Ed Bach (0-8). Billy Cather led off by lacing a triple to the gap in right-center field for his 200th career hit.

Ian Leisenheimer plated the eventual winning run with a groundout to first base. Myckie Lugbauer singled, moved up on a Kevin McAvoy single and scored on Justin Leisenheimer’s hard single to left.

Ian Leisenheimer also stroked a two-run single in the fifth.

Cather, Lugbauer and McAvoy added a single apiece.

Shawn Retz and Wink Nolan posted two singles each for UMBC.

In Game 2, the Bears used a four-run seventh inning to break the game open for Bazdanes (3-0).

The freshman scattered nine hits, striking out six and walking one, over seven innings. Kevin Scanlan worked the final two innings.

UMaine clung to a 3-2 lead before tallying four runs with the aid of two UMBC errors. Joey Martin of Portland reached on a misplayed grounder by third baseman Dustin Ferguson, then Menendez beat out a bunt single.

Cather pushed the first run across with a sacrifice bunt on which the runners took second and third on a low throw by Ferguson. Leisenheimer followed, lashing a two-run single inside the bag at third.

He eventually scored on a fielder’s choice by Kyle Stilphen, making it 7-2.

Jarrett Lukas of Old Town had an RBI single in the Bears’ two-run fourth.

McAvoy and Menendez stroked a double and a single each for UMaine. Martin had two singles and an RBI.

The Retrievers came up with 14 hits, including four Brad Brainer singles, but hit into two double plays and couldn’t string their hits together.

Nolan hit a home run and two singles.

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