WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — The University of Maine baseball team arrived at Fiondella Field on Sunday eager to complete a sweep of its America East series against Hartford.
Sophomore righthander Anthony Mannuccia and the Hawks had other ideas.
Mannuccia limited the Black Bears to eight hits Sunday afternoon and Hartford banged out five extra-base hits to earn a 4-1 victory in the series finale.
Coach Steve Trimper’s ballclub had swept Saturday’s doubleheader 3-1 and 5-1 in cold, windy and, eventually, rainy conditions.
“No one is happy at all just winning the series. We wanted to sweep the series,” Trimper said.
“We’re extremely disappointed,” he added.”We’re not playing to our capabilities.”
On Sunday, the Bears (12-20, 3-4 AE) couldn’t measure Mannuccia (2-4), whose heavy dose of breaking stuff and changeups kept them off-balance. He struck out four and walked one, throwing 111 pitches.
“The umpire was giving a little bit on the outside, especially on lefties, so we wanted to stay more away,” Manuccia said.
He was backed by solid defense and timely hitting, including Chris Suchy’s two-out, two-run double in the fourth inning that provided all the runs the Hawks (3-25-1, 1-5 AE) would ultimately need.
Simon Kudernatsch tripled twice and scored two runs as Hartford reached starter A.J. Bazdanes (1-4) for four hits and three runs in six innings.
“It’s really one of the first times we actually put everything together,” Mannuccia said. “I had all the help behind me, we had big hits and I threw the ball well.”
The only run UMaine mustered was a solo home run in the fourth inning by senior Joey Martin of Portland. He also singled. Ian Leisenheimer doubled and singled.
“We had a lot of balls we hit hard, right at guys, and it could have led to a big inning,” Trimper said. “We didn’t get those big hits.”
Trailing 2-1, the Bears threatened in the sixth. Martin and Leisenheimer singled with one out, then Justin Leisenheimer drew a two-out walk. Mannuccia induced Alex Calbick to fly out to center field.
“It’s frustrating, because we outhit them and we scored only one run,” Ian Leisenheimer said. “A lot of guys had good contact and we had nothing to show for it.”
Hartford scored twice in the fourth when Kudernatsch tripled off the fence in right, Ryan Lukach walked and both scored on Suchy’s double to left-center.
The Hawks scored once in the sixth off Bazdanes and tallied an unearned run in the seventh off Steve Perakslis after UMaine’s only error of the weekend.
The Bears went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.
“We played pretty good defense again and I think our pitchers did a decent job,” Martin said. “They just got a few timely hits.”
In Saturday’s opener, Keith Bilodeau pitched a five-hitter with five strikeouts and three walks. He featured a cutter and a fastball, throwing 85 pitches.
Bilodeau (4-2) won his third consecutive start and pitched his third straight complete game while lowering his earned run average to 3.88.
“I had my cutter going and my curveball going and I was spotting my fastball pretty well,” said Bilodeau.
He outdueled Hartford lefthander Mike Thatcher (0-4), who held the Bears to four hits but was plagued by early wildness.
“I just had to go out there, stay focused and keep pounding the strike zone,” Bilodeau said.
Mike Fransoso provided a key insurance run with a solo home run to right field in the top of the seventh inning.
UMaine scored twice in the first as Fransoso was hit by a pitch and stole second. One out later, Thatcher hit Ian Leisenheimer, which led to Taylor Lewis’ RBI single through the middle.
Leisenheimer scored on an error when first baseman Matt Walker dropped a pickoff throw from Thatcher.
The Bears failed to generate much else against Thatcher, who retired 12 straight batters prior to the Fransoso homer.
“We’re still not getting all the timely hitting that we want,” Trimper said. “I’m waiting for that big inning and getting that big hit to bust the game open.”
Hartford scored its only run off Bilodeau in the third inning on a walk, Victor Santana’s one-out double and a Mark Sorbara sacrifice fly to left.
In the second game, sophomore righty Jeff Gibbs (3-4) pitched seven strong innings and was backed by the long ball. He scattered four hits and also was supported by errorless defense, including two double plays.
Freshman infielder Mike Connolly was the offensive catalyst. He went 3-for-4, including a solo home run — the first of his collegiate career — in the fifth inning.
“I needed to get back into the groove of things. It feels good,” Connolly said.
“I used to be a guess hitter and obviously that’s not going to get me anywhere at this level, so I think I’m finally changing my mentality up at the plate.”
UMaine stroked three homers in the game, including Fransoso’s opposite-field, leadoff shot in the first inning and Ian Leisenheimer’s solo blast in the sixth. Justin Leisenheimer added an RBI double and a sacrifice fly.
Gibbs mixed up his pitches and kept the ball down before giving way to. Shaun Coughlin, who pitched two perfect innings with two strikeouts.
“Everything just went my way today,” Gibbs said. “Our defense played awesome, we got timely hitting.”
Up 1-0, UMaine scored single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
In the fourth, Martin singled, stole second and eventually scored on Justin Leisenheimer’s sacrifice fly. Connolly made it 3-0 in the fifth when he belted Hunter Englehart’s 2-1 pitch over the fence in left.
The Bears added a run in the sixth on Ian Leisenheimer’s towering homer to left.
Hartford scored its only run in the sixth. Brendan Behm worked a leadoff walk, Sorbara stung a hit-and-run single to right-center and Jason Freethey grounded into a run-scoring double play.