When the University of Maine softball team plays Stony Brook University, one thing the players won’t be saying to each other in pregame is “Long time, no see.”
After finishing their regular season with a three-game series against SBU last weekend, the Black Bears open the America East Conference tournament with a game against the Seawolves today at 3:30 p.m. in Orono at Kessock Field. No. 4 Albany takes on No. 1 Boston University at 1 p.m.
Maine head coach Deb Smith actually likes the idea of getting a quick rematch with the ’Wolves in the four-team, double-elimination tourney.
“It’s going to be tight, but I like our matchup,” Smith said. “We played very close games with them last weekend, but we left a lot of people on the first day and hit their ace hard the second day.
“We should not have lost two games to Stony Brook. I’m 100 percent confident in the fact we can and should beat Stony Brook.”
Smith feels a couple of batters in the lineup are an at-bat or two away from busting out of their doldrums.
“I really like how some kids — Kali Burnham, Brynn Davis and Kristen Calvetti — swung the bats this weekend,” she said. “Kali’s hitting No. 5 and we really want her to step up. She’s been hitting a lot of ground balls that are going to turn into base hits very soon.
“Brynn was robbed of a double on a great diving outfield play. I need her to step up in the nine spot and help Alexis [Souhlaris] be a table-setter. Calvetti, who’s fourth, is a free-swinger, but she actually took a walk — on a 3-2 count, no less.”
Smith is giving Calvetti the needle, but she’s serious about her expectations. She really believes Maine’s lineup is sitting on a powder keg.
“I really think we have the potential to string a bunch of hits together and have some big innings,” she said.
Maine’s pitching staff is also a lot deeper than previous seasons, thanks in large part to the late-season development of senior pitcher Cayleigh Montano. She’s only 3-2 in 10 appearances, but seems to have found her groove.
“The kid we are actually playing well behind is Montano. Something clicked for her a few weeks ago when Beth Spoehr couldn’t pitch and we used her,” said Smith. “She is just on fire right now. I think the team is feeding off her energy right now.
“There’s a good chance she might even get the start against Stony Brook.”
Maine is hosting the tournament despite being the second seed because top seed BU couldn’t properly host it because of graduation weekend being held at the same time on a campus with limited space.
“It’s a huge bonus for us because we don’t have to travel and the girls are in their own apartments and own beds,” Smith said. “A bunch of them are in May term classes, so there is the academic commitment, but a lot of them are able to hang out and be relaxed without being in close quarters. And hanging out in lobbies or hotel rooms all day.”