ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine softball team’s spring trip certainly didn’t go as well as second-year head coach Lynn Coutts had hoped for.
The Black Bears went 2-22 and suffered 19 consecutive losses to extend their losing streak to 22 games before winning two games in a row. They had lost the last three games on an earlier four-game road trip.
When they travel to the University of Maryland-Baltimore County for a three-game set this weekend to open their America East schedule, the 3-25 Black Bears will be sporting a team batting average of .207, a team ERA of 4.44 and a .932 fielding percentage.
Maine has made 54 errors in 28 games and was held to one run or less in 12 of their 24 spring trip games.
“We have to put the spring trip behind us,” Coutts said. “We played 24 games in 17 days and we don’t have a lot of depth this year.
“In a situation like this, you learn a lot about your team,” Coutts continued. “They never quit. It would have been very easy for them to not show up. But they kept working harder.”
Coutts made some alterations to the lineup and from a strategic standpoint during the course of the trip.
Sophomore Jessica Burk, an infielder who played right field last year, replaced the departed Jennifer Eberhardt at shortstop but struggled defensively (16 errors) and returned to right field.
“I think she tried too hard. She cares a lot,” Coutts said.
However, Burk is the team’s leading hitter at .264 with a homer and eight runs batted in. She had 11 RBIs last season.
Freshman Makaila Kowalsky, who had been playing center field, replaced her at shortstop.
“She was put in a tough situation but responded very well,” Coutts said.
In the latter stages of the trip, Coutts also decided to start calling pitches rather than relying on her catchers to call them.
“That made a difference because now all the catchers have to worry about is blocking the ball and throwing it,” Coutts said. “I scout the hitters.”
Junior third baseman Jean Stevens was one of the bright spots on the road trip, with six homers and 18 runs batted in to go with her .241 average. She hit .238 with three homers and 10 RBIs last season.
“She’s very strong,” Coutts said.
Coutts said she expects sophomore catcher EmJ Fogel, a .331 hitter last year and an All-Northeast Region first-team pick and America East second-team selection, to start producing after a .258 start to her season. She is also expecting more from first baseman Hilary Kane (.213), who returned to the lineup after missing the first trip due to an Achilles tendon injury. Fogel has also been seeing some outfield duty.
Burk, Fogel and Stevens are the only Black Bears hitting over .234. Sophomore second baseman Kristen Koslosky has a team-high six stolen bases.
Coutts added that she is looking for more consistency from pitchers Beth Spoehr (2-6, 4.59 ERA), Kylie Sparks (0-3, 5.50) and transfers Hannah Hill (1-8, 3.68) and Alexis Bogdanovich (0-8, 4.48).
The Maine coach also said junior left fielder Dagmar Ralphs, who hit .284 with 16 RBIs a year ago, will miss the entire season in order to recuperate from knee surgery. Coutts had initially hoped to have her back for the league games.
“There’s no sense to put her in for just a few games and have her use up a year of eligibility,” Coutts said.
Ralphs will be a medical redshirt and will retain two years of eligibility.
Ouellette, Shore earn awards
Some of the Hockey East Awards, which were chosen by the league’s coaches, were announced Wednesday, and there were also awards voted on by the Hockey East Writers and Broadcasters Association. It is the first year HEWBA has awarded honors.
Maine junior goalie Martin Ouellette and freshman center Devin Shore were honored.
Ouellette shared the Army ROTC Three Stars Award with University of New Hampshire senior right wing John Henrion. Media members vote for the top three players at each game.
Ouellette was chosen one of the three stars in 11 games, including being named the No. 1 star on two occasions.
He finished the season with a 9-12-8 record, a 2.42 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. He had two shutouts and held opponents to two goals or less 15 times.
Shore was named to the HEWBA All-Rookie team, although he wasn’t chosen to the coaches’ All-Rookie team as they elected to go with just two forwards (Boston University’s Danny O’Regan and Northeastern’s Kevin Roy) so they could have two goalies on the team in UMass Lowell’s Connor Hellebuyck and Providence’s Jon Gillies.
The All-Rookie team defensemen were BU’s Matt Grzelcyk and Boston College’s Mike Matheson.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said both were deserving of their awards.
“Martin had a great season and was certainly a difference-maker for us in our second-half run,” Whitehead said.
Shore became the first Black Bear freshman to lead the team in scoring since Gustav Nyquist was the top point-producer in 2008-09.
He had six goals and 20 assists in 38 games including four goals and 13 assists in his last 15 games.
“Devin is such a complete player from the offensive and defensive perspective. He can wear every hat. He can play center or wing, he played the point on the power play and quarterbacked it, he killed penalties and he took faceoffs. He’s also a great person off the ice,” Whitehead said.
He said he was surprised freshman defenseman Ben Hutton didn’t earn a berth on either rookie team and that Shore wasn’t selected to the coaches’ All-Rookie team.
Pete Souris, Hockey East assistant commissioner for media relations, explained that the top six vote-getters earn berths on the All-Rookie Team regardless of position.