JERSEY CITY, N.J. — The conditions ma;y have been better suited for football during the Fairleigh Dickinson Baseball Classic, but the University of Maine staved off the effects of the cold, windy weather to post three victories behind strong starting pitching.
Freshman righthander Shaun Coughlin pitched a five-hitter in his first collegiate start Sunday, helping the Black Bears cap the weekend with a 5-1 victory over St. Peter’s at Cochrane Field in Caven Park.
UMaine beat Fairleigh Dickinson 5-1 in Sunday’s first game after splitting Saturday, when the Bears rebounded for a 4-1 win over Fairleigh Dickinson after dropping a 7-5 decision to St. Peter’s in the first game.
“To spot three wins in a row, giving up just one run, that’s pretty good,” said UMaine coach Steve Trimper. “It was not an easy offensive weekend with these cold temperatures and the wind blowing like that.”
UMaine (9-16) returns to Orono riding a three-game win streak, having generated some confidence and momentum.
“The last three games, heading into our first home series, it was really good to get a three-game win streak,” said senior captain Joey Martin of Portland.
“At this point, it’s all about playing clean baseball and getting wins,” he added.
In Sunday’s finale, Coughlin was in charge throughout. He kept the Peacocks guessing and struck out six with no walks..
“The last game I started was in August, so it was good to get back out there,” said the soft-spoken Coughlin, who had made nine relief appearances. “I felt good. I was spotting my fastball, inside and out, up, down. I just got into a groove.”
St. Peter’s (5-14) scored its only run in the fourth, but UMaine turned a double play that limited the damage. The Bears responded with two runs in the fourth and fifth innings to take charge.
Freshman Alex Calbick’s two-run single was the big blow in the fourth, when UMaine capitalized on an error and two walks. In the fifth, a one-out walk, Taylor Lewis’ bunt single, a Troy Black sac fly and an error provided the runs.
“I think the biggest thing is, we’re becoming more of a team,” Calbick said of the unselfish approach. “Guys are doing their job, moving guys over, getting the sac fly.”
Calbick finished with two singles for the Bears.
Myron Enos singled three times to lead St. Peter’s.
In Sunday’s opener, Steve Perakslis spread out seven hits and allowed only one run in seven innings. The sophomore righty got by mostly with his fastball and scattered seven singles with three strikeouts and one walk.
“We absolutely needed the win,” said Perakslis, who worked his way out of trouble in a couple of spots. “I’ve worked on it (minimizing damage). I have to get ahead in the count. I have to throw strikes.”
UMaine was able to outlast FDU lefthander Matt Cadigan, who was knocked out in the sixth.
Leading 1-0, the Bears broke the game open in the sixth. Martin sparked the rally with a triple down the line in right, then scored on Justin Leisenheimer’s line-drive triple to center.
Calbick followed with a ground-ball RBI single through the middle. After Colin Gay’s sacrifice bunt, Mike Connolly stroked a run-scoring single to center and stole second. He scored when he took third on a wild pitch and raced home on an errant throw by the catcher.
It proved more than enough runs for Perakslis and Jon Balentina, who worked two shutout innings in relief.
Leisenheimer, Connolly and Lewis had two hits apiece for the Bears.
“When you get good pitching, good defense and timely hitting like we did these last three games, you’re going to put yourself in position to win ballgames,” Trimper said.
Brian Dillon hit a double and two singles for the Knights (4-13), while Matt Holsman singled twice and knocked in a run.
On Saturday, the pitchers who weren’t intimidated by the cold, windy conditions came out on top.
UMaine junior righthander A.J. Bazdanes pitched eight innings of three-hit ball — in short sleeves — with wind chills dipping into the teens in the nippy nightcap.
Bazdanes dominated with a hard fastball and a tantalizing curveball, helping the Bears bounce back. He struck out seven and walked three, throwing 116 pitches.
“I’ve never pitched in long sleeves in my entire life,” said Bazdanes, whose effort seemed to energize the team. “To be honest, when I got out there, I was pretty hot. The adrenaline was pumping. We needed a win, big time.”
Bazdanes said the staff has been trying to throw more strikes.
“We just need to be more aggressive, let the ball get hit,” he said. “We have good fielding behind us.”
Ian Leisenheimer sparked the offense with a clutch, three-run triple during UMaine’s four-run fourth inning.
“It was a relief to get that last one out of the way, Leisenheimer said. “It was cold, it was a long day, everyone was tired. We did what we had to do.”
FDU didn’t have a baserunner until the fourth, when it scored its only run, then managed only one more off him over the next four innings. Freshman D.J. Voisine pitched a scoreless ninth.
UMaine went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position over the first four innings before finally cashing in against Saints righthander Nick Melchiorre.
Black also doubled for the Bears and Justin Leisenheimer added a triple.
In Saturday’s opener, Dom Macaluso limited UMaine to two runs and three hits through 6 1/3 innings to set the tone for St. Peter’s victory.
The rugged righthander held the Bears in check. He struck out six and walked four, throwing 110 pitches.
By the time Macaluso departed, St. Peter’s held a 7-1 advantage that ultimately held up.
Trimper made wholesale lineup changes in the sixth inning in an attempt to shake things up. The move, coupled with Macaluso’s departure with one out in the seventh, opened the door for a comeback try by the Bears.
UMaine scored once in the seventh and twice in the eighth, then had the potential tying and go-ahead runs on base in the ninth. However, Peacocks reliever Anthony DeLeo escaped a bases-loaded jam to wrap up the victory.
Brian Koster knocked in three runs for the winners with a single and a double, while Chris Aldridge tripled and singled.
Justin Leisenheimer led the UMaine offense with two singles, while Colin Gay smacked a two-run double behind losing pitcher Keith Bilodeau.
Balentina was outstanding in relief, allowing only a sun-aided triple while striking out six in 2 2/3 innings.