ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine baseball team had its four-game winning streak halted Monday, albeit temporarily, by the weather.
The finale of the Black Bears’ scheduled three-game series at Florida A&M was canceled because of rain, but the weather didn’t dampen the team’s enthusiasm.
UMaine (4-5), which dropped its first five games, took two out of three at Stetson and swept Sunday’s doubleheader at Florida A&M behind some outstanding pitching.
Several newcomers, including a handful of freshman right-handers, have performed well early to give coach Steve Trimper reason for optimism about a revamped pitching staff.
“Our pitching was really good this weekend,” Trimper said. “We were hitting our spots. Hence, why our pitch counts were so low.”
Leading the way early on is Logan Fullmer (1-0). He pitched six shutout innings Sunday in a win over the Rattlers and has allowed four hits and no runs with eight strikeouts in nine innings this season.
Fullmer, who has limited opponents to a .129 batting average, was followed Sunday by classmate Charlie Butler, who worked three shutout innings and has not allowed a run in four innings.
Freshman Burke FitzPatrick posted 2⅔ hitless innings of relief in Saturday’s 16-4 drubbing of Stetson, while Jacob Marks has so far given up a hit and one run in 1⅔ innings.
The freshman group has a combined earned run average of 0.96 and opponents are hitting well under .200 against the quartet.
“I still believe that this was one of our more talented freshman groups that we’ve recruited in the past couple years, particularly on the pitching side of things,” Trimper said.
Setting the tone among the upperclassmen is junior Tommy Lawrence. The right-hander, who sat out last year after transferring from Winthrop University, is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in two starts.
He has 10 strikeouts in 15 innings.
Junior Mike Connolly, the starting catcher, also has been solid. The righty (1-1, 3.65) has spaced 12 hits in 12 innings, including Sunday’s seven-inning six-hitter.
Senior A.J. Bazdanes (1-1, 6.97), pitching for the first time since 2011, has given the Bears a chance to win in his two starts.
Monday’s rainout, coupled with the strong performances by several pitchers, also meant some Black Bears did not get some needed mound time.
That group includes sophomore Scott Heath of Westbrook, Marks and junior Shaun Coughlin, who pitched only one inning.
“It was a successful trip, outside the fact that a couple of our better pitchers didn’t throw,” Trimper said.
Fransoso propels offense
UMaine backed its pitchers with solid offensive production in Florida, sparked by Mike Fransoso.
The senior shortstop went 11-for-22 (.500) in the five games and stroked five doubles. He knocked in seven runs and scored six, stealing three bases on his way to America East Player of the Week honors.
Outfielder Heath went 8-for-20 (.400) with nine RBIs, second baseman Troy Black batted .368 (7-for-19) with five runs scored and Sam Balzano of Portland contributed seven hits in 22 at-bats (.318) and stole four bases on his way to eight runs scored.
Alex Calbick added six hits and five RBIs.
“It was a good sign,” Trimper said of the well-rounded production against what he described as good starting pitching for Stetson and Florida A&M.
“We were hitting in pitcher’s counts against A&M and got some quality at-bats, top to bottom,” he added.
Trimper also praised his team for its resilience after playing Feb. 15-17 at Auburn (Ala.), returning to Orono for two days, then heading back on the road for five games in four days in Florida.
“I thought our guys did a tremendous job with that,” he said. “What it shows is our depth that I’ve talked about. We’re getting a lot of guys playing time and we’re starting to settle in after these first two weeks.”
UMaine heads back on the road Friday to begin a spring break trip that includes 10 games in 12 days before opening the America East Conference season with a three-game series March 16-17 at Stony Brook.