ORONO, Maine — Fran Whitten hasn’t spent a lot of time on the pitcher’s mound for the University of Maine, but he’s ready if called upon.
The sophomore righthander limited Husson University to two hits through six innings Wednesday evening to help the University of Maine earn a 7-2 baseball victory at Mahaney Diamond.
Whitten (1-1) struck out six and walked one in his longest collegiate outing as the Black Bears extended their winning streak to five games.
“It was nice for my own confidence, too, to get out there and see how long I could go and see how I could do,” said Whitten, who is in UMaine’s regular lineup as a catcher or designated hitter.
Coach Steve Trimper’s ballclub (12-14) departs Thursday for Baltimore, Md., and a four-game America East series against Maryland Baltimore County beginning Friday afternoon.
With UMaine’s pitching depth thinned by injuries, getting Whitten some quality innings could prove valuable later in the season.
“It’s good to see him out there,” said junior catcher Tyler Patzalek, who knocked in three runs for the Bears. “He doesn’t pitch all that much because he’s a key hitter in our lineup. If he can put in some work on the mound, the more innings, the better he’s going to get.”
Division III Husson University of Bangor (7-10) also tried to work around some pitching limitations. Coach Jason Harvey’s Eagles played two North Eastern Athletic Conference games Tuesday and have two more Thursday against UMaine-Farmington.
The Eagles limited the Bears to four hits, all of which were singles. However, Husson pitchers issued seven walks and hit six batters to help fuel UMaine’s offense.
Tim Nason of Bucksport (0-1) took the loss in his first outing of the season. He gave up only two hits in 4⅓ innings, but walked two and hit four.
Patzalek paced the Bears with a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning, an RBI single in the fifth and a bases-loaded walk in the sixth. Ian Leisenheimer singled, walked and was hit by a pitch twice and scored three runs.
Alex Calbick plated two runs with a sacrifice fly and a run-producing walk, while Whitten and Sam Balzano each posted a single. Luke Morrill of South Thomaston, Jon Balentina and Eric White of Brewer each pitched a scoreless inning of relief for the Bears.
Nick Lancisi of Dover and Dylan Foster of Oakland singled for the Eagles.
Trailing 1-0, the Eagles scored two unearned runs in the fifth with the aid of two Black Bear errors. Lancisi stroked an opposite-field single down the right-field line to break up Whitten’s no-hit bit, but was erased on Jake Arthers’ fielder’s choice.
Arthers advanced when Mike Fransoso robbed Milford’s Jason Smith of a hit on a grounder behind the bag at second, took third on a balk, and scored when Benjamin McLain of Pemaquid reached on a throwing error by Fransoso.
McLain scored when he stole second and Patzalek bounced the throw into left field to give Husson a 2-1 lead.
UMaine regained the lead by scoring four times in the bottom of the inning despite posting only one hit. The inning was indicative of Husson’s night.
Brian Doran was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on a throwing error on Troy Black’s fielder’s choice. One out later, Nason hit Colin Gay and Leisenheimer to load the bases, then walked Scott Heath of Westbrook to force in a run.
Kyle McLain of Orrington replaced Nason, giving up Calbick’s sac fly to left and Patzalek’s RBI single through the left side.
“Our hit-by-pitches and walks just replaced our hits, which is the kind of game we had to grind out,” Patzalek said.
“I was getting up in good situations, lots of guys on with limited outs,” he added. “Coach Trimper’s been focusing on not so much always trying to get that hit, but doing the little things right.”
The Bears tacked on two runs in the sixth when Calbick and Patzalek worked Bill Doherty for bases-loaded walks.
Trimper said UMaine needs to play such nonleague games during the season.
“It’s great for us to play,” he said. “Husson does a good job and they’re local.”