It is a critical time of the season for the University of Maine baseball team.
Coach Steve Trimper’s Black Bears (6-15) continue to look for consistency from the pitching staff while working several newcomers into the lineup.
UMaine’s plans have been slowed by the recent storm, which forced the Bears back into the Mahaney Dome for practices Tuesday and Wednesday. The weather also wiped out Thursday’s scheduled game at Sacred Heart.
UMaine is gearing up for a tournament hosted by Fairleigh Dickinson. However, since the Broncs’ new facility is under construction, the Bears will now play FDU and St. Peter’s in doubleheaders Saturday and Sunday at Jersey City, N.J.
The Bears are coming off a disappointing 1-3 weekend at Rider, where they salvaged Sunday’s finale by a score of 8-3. Broncs pitching limited UMaine to two runs three times as the Bears managed only 3.5 runs and 7.0 hits per game.
After a tough 3-2 loss Friday, during which UMaine registered 10 hits but left 11 runners on base, Rider won 7-2 and 9-2 on Saturday.
“It was not good baseball,” Trimper said. “We completely beat ourselves. Our guys were pressing extremely hard on Saturday to get some wins and they just put a little too much pressure on themselves, and you can’t play baseball like that.”
UMaine batted only .230 as a team in the series, with junior outfielders Taylor Lewis (5-for-16, .313) and Joey Martin of Portland (.286) and twins Justin Leisenheimer and Ian Leisenheimer (both 3-for-8, .375) leading the way.
Ian Leisenheimer and Michael Fransoso each knocked in two runs in the Bears’ 8-3 victory on Sunday.
UMaine is batting .272 for the season, averaging only 5.0 runs and 9.4 hits per contest.
Sophomore righthander Steve Perakslis set the tone among the pitchers, working seven innings of two-hit ball Sunday. He struck out six and walked three.
“Perakslis pitched outstanding,” Trimper said. “(Keith) Bilodeau and (Jeff) Gibbs were not their normal self. A.J. (Bazdanes) pitched well enough for us to win that (Friday) game.”
Bazdanes, a junior righthander, gave up six hits and two runs in 5 2/3 innings in the 3-2 setback, but UMaine didn’t get the clutch hits.
“We had a runner on third base in three innings with less than two outs and we either lined out, struck out or popped up and we couldn’t get those runs in,” Trimper said.
The Bears appear to have solidifed their starting rotation behind the four aforementioned pitchers. That group has combined for a 5-10 record with a 5.23 earned run average thus far.
The quartet has allowed 116 hits and 52 earned runs in 106 2/3 innings with 106 strikeouts and 63 walks. Opponents are hitting .280 against them.
The Bears also have received solid contributions from freshmen Shawn Coughlin (0-0, 1.83) and D.J. Voisine (1-0, 3.09). UMaine is looking for more out of the likes of junior lefties Kevin Scanlan and Jonathan Balentina, junior righthander Kyle Benoit and senior righty Joe Miller.
Trimper said UMaine must show some improvement during the next two weekends of nonleague play.
“Our conference is the most important thing and we want to start playing good-quality baseball to get on a little bit of a run,” Trimper said. “Right now, we want to turn the corner and get a little hot.”
Baseball season tickets on sale
Season tickets for the 2011 UMaine baseball campaign are on sale now.
The Bears are scheduled to play 18 April games (12 dates) at Mahaney Diamond, starting with a home-opening series April 1-3 against Bryant University. Other April games include Colby (5), Albany (23-24) and Maryland Baltimore County (30).
Season tickets start at $45 for adults and $28 for senior, youth, faculty and staff. A group rate of $3 per person is available by calling the ticket office at 581-2327 or 1-800-756-8326.
UM hosts Bears of Tomorrow
UMaine in Orono will be the site of the Black Bears of Tomorrow program being run by Black Bear Sports Properties.
The event, scheduled for April 8, is sponsored by Weight Watchers of Maine. It will welcome 200 fifth-grade students from across the state who will participate in a variety of activities.
Participants will receive a daylong walking tour of campus that will incorporate academics, athletics and the arts. Many of UMaine’s head coaches will talk to students about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle that includes physical and academic well-being.
For more information, contact Jason Hoyt at 581-4121 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.