Texas Tech University, an NCAA tournament team a year ago and a preseason top-five team in all six major publications, awaits the University of Maine baseball team for a four-game series at Rip Griffin Park in Lubbock, Texas beginning Friday at 3 p.m.
They play a 1 p.m. doubleheader on Saturday and 2 p.m. single game on Sunday.
The Red Raiders went 45-17 last season.
Following an underwhelming regular season a year ago in which UMaine went 8-12 in America East play, the Black Bears strung together four straight wins after an opening loss to reach the championship round in the league’s double-elimination tournament at Lowell, Mass.
The Black Bears were eliminated with a 2-1, 10-inning loss to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
The Black Bears, who return most of their lineup and pitching staff, graduated closer Jeff Gelinas (1-4, 7 saves, 1.23 earned run average), right fielder Tyler Schwanz (.284 batting average, 6 home runs, 38 runs batted in) and left fielder Lou Della Fera (.271-0-9).
Schwanz led the team in RBIs and tied for the team lead in homers with shortstop Jeremy Pena.
UMaine, which was 25-29 overall in 2017 under then-interim head coach Nick Derba, was picked to finish second in the America East preseason coaches poll. Derba was named the head coach in the offseason.
Junior third baseman Danny Casals, UMaine’s leading hitter two years ago (.310) when he was chosen to the America East All-Rookie team, is back and healthy after undergoing shoulder surgery.
Casals separated his shoulder diving for a line drive on a 10-6 loss to Hartford on April 9 and was lost for the season. He was hitting .247 at the time.
Sophomore Hernen Sardinas will move from first base to right field and sophomore Cody Pasic will play first. Pasic is a catcher by trade but filled in at third when Casals got hurt.
Pena returns at short with second baseman Caleb Kerbs back at second. Brandon Vicens will again patrol center field with Colin Ridley and Kevin Doody platooning in left.
Leading hitter Christopher Bec (.340-1-26) and Jonathan Bennett switched off between the catcher-designated hitter positions and that will continue.
Bangor senior right-hander Justin Courtney will start the opener with Lewiston junior left Eddie Emerson, junior righty Nick Silva and redshirt junior right-hander Chris Murphy scheduled to start the other three games in the series.
UM women’s hockey team hosts BC
The nation’s top two scorers will invade the Alfond Arena for two Hockey East women’s contests against UMaine on Friday and Saturday at 2 p.m.
Boston College freshman phenom Daryl Watts, a left winger, has 39 goals and 36 assists for 75 points in 32 games and her linemate, sophomore center Caitrin Lonergan, has 27 & 40 in 32 games.
The No. 4 Eagles (26-3-3 overall, 17-2-3 HE) have clinched the league’s regular-season championship and No. 9 UMaine (17-10-5, 11-7-4 HE) has sewn up a home-ice berth for a best-of-three quarterfinal series.
BC and UMaine are the only nationally-ranked teams from Hockey East.
UMaine is fighting Providence College for second place and is one point behind with two games left. Providence has only one game remaining.
UMaine will honor its five seniors on Saturday: Center Brooke Stacey (128 career games, 38 goals, 44 assists), right wings Catherine Tufts (119, 23 & 16) and Victoria Hummel (95, 5 & 9) and defensemen Mikayla Rogers (112, 0 & 13) and Kristin Gilmour (86, 5 & 11).
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