June 18, 2018
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Bears control playoff destiny

By Pete Warner

Weather permitting, today is the last day of the regular season for America East baseball.

The University of Maine’s postseason fortunes remain a mystery.

Coach Steve Trimper’s Black Bears made no headway in the league standings while splitting a Friday doubleheader against Stony Brook at University Field in Stony Brook, N.Y.

UMaine won the opener 7-1, but dropped the nightcap 7-6, setting up what could be a tense 12:30 p.m. doubleheader against the Seawolves today.

“We’re fighting for our [playoff] lives,” Trimper said. “These guys have worked their butts off all year long and we’re coming down to the last day of the season.

UMaine (32-22, 12-10 AE) can guarantee itself a spot in next week’s America East Championship with a sweep of Stony Brook. That result would give the Bears the nod over the Seawolves (28-20, 13-9 AE), regardless of any other outcomes.

With a split today, UMaine will need some help.

A UMaine split, coupled with two Binghamton wins over Vermont, would put the Bears in the tournament ahead of the Catamounts.

The Bearcats (13-5 AE) clinched the top seed with Friday’s split against Vermont (12-10) — with a minimum .650 winning percentage) — and are expected to host the event after the America East Committee on Championships and Competition voted Friday to accept Binghamton’s bid to utilize a nearby high school field.

UMaine also could advance with a split against Stony Brook if Albany (13-9) fails to win both games at Hartford. If the Great Danes are swept or go 1-1 against the Hawks, Stony Brook would claim second place in the standings via the tiebreaking system.

However, if UMaine and Vermont finish tied and Albany sweeps Hartford, the Catamounts would gain the tiebreaker because Albany would be the No. 2 seed and the Great Danes swept UMaine while Vermont went 2-2.

That, in turn, would give UMaine the nod over Vermont in a tiebreaker against Stony Brook as the Bears would have split against the Seawolves, while the Catamounts went 1-3.

Trimper said he spoke with SBU coach Matt Senk about the situation after Friday’s games.

“I said there’s five equal teams, it’s the weirdest thing,” Trimper said. “Anybody can win this thing. It’s great parity, but you’ve got to win every single game.”

In the first game, Scanlan pitched a five-hitter to set the tone for the Bears.

The sophomore lefthander struck out six and walked one, allowing only one unearned run. It was the second straight complete game for Scanlan (6-3), who has allowed only 11 hits and three earned runs in his last 18¤ innings (1.47 ERA) of work.

“It was going to be hard for him to pitch better than he did last weekend. He one-upped it,” Trimper said. “He was outstanding, mixing pitches. He did step up.”

Jarrett Lukas of Old Town led the Bears’ offense with a triple, two singles and an RBI. Joey Martin of Portland singled twice, while Taylor Lewis hit a solo home run.

UMaine scored all the runs it would ultimately need in the second inning against loser Tyler Johnson (5-3).

Kevin McAvoy singled, but was erased on Myckie Lugbauer’s fielder’s choice. After Kyle Stilphen walked, Lukas hit an RBI single through the left side.

One out later, Martin singled up the middle to make it 2-0.

The Bears scored three runs in the fifth with the aid of an error and a run-scoring balk.

Brian Witkowski doubled and singled for Stony Brook.

In Game 2, the Seawolves reached the UMaine bullpen for five runs in the last four innings to pull out the victory.

Stony Brook won it in the ninth when Michael Tansey reached on an infield single with one out, then Steven Mazzurco singled to center and took second on the throw to third.

Stephen Marino was walked intentionally by Bears reliever Justin Latta (1-2), who then surrendered Chad Rebecca’s game-winning single to center.

“We ended up coming back a couple of times,” Trimper said. We just couldn’t hold the lead with our bullpen.”

UMaine starter Matt Jebb lasted only five innings before tiring.

Trailing 4-3, the Bears scored three times in the seventh. Billy Cather’s solo home run with one out chased starter Mike Errigo in favor of Marc Brown (3-2), who was greeted by a Taylor Lewis single and Kevin McAvoy’s run-scoring double. Justin Leisenheimer’s single and a throwing error gave UMaine a short-lived 6-4 lead.

SBU tied it in the bottom of the seventh reliever against Alejandro Balsinde, who allowed Michael Stephan’s one-out single and a two-run homer by Rob Dyer.

Tony Patane hit a two-run single in the sixth and added another hit for the Bears. Leisenhemer also added a single.

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