May 24, 2019
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Pitcher returns from injury with strong effort as UMaine beats Albany in America East tourney

Pete Warner | BDN
Pete Warner | BDN
UMaine pitcher Nick Silva

ORONO, Maine — University of Maine junior right-hander Nick Silva hadn’t started a game since April 22 due to a forearm strain.

But you wouldn’t have known it on Thursday.

Silva threw six impressive innings of three-hit, one-run ball and junior shortstop Jeremy Pena delivered a clutch two-out, two-run single in a three-run, fourth-inning rally as the Black Bears beat Albany 6-1 to stay alive in the double-elimination America East tournament at Mahaney Diamond.

Fifth seed UMaine (20-33) takes on Stony Brook (30-24), the fourth seed, at 2:30 p.m. Friday. The winner plays the loser of the 11 a.m. winners’ bracket game between top seed Hartford and No. 2 UMass Lowell at 6 p.m.

Stony Brook beat UMaine 2-1 in the tourney opener but lost to Hartford 2-0 in the Thursday morning game.

“My arm felt amazing,” said Silva, who lasted only 1 2/3 innings in his last start and allowed six hits and four runs in a 9-8 loss at UMass Lowell.

“Coach (Nick Derba) gave me the nod and I went out and delivered,” Silva said. “Everything was working today. I was able to throw my fastball where I wanted to, I flipped over my curve and I also threw my changeup.”

Silva (3-6) struck out four and walked two while throwing 89 pitches, 53 for strikes. He induced 11 ground-ball outs and was backed with superb defense.

Cody Laweryson pitched two innings of two-hit relief and Connor Johnson retired all three hitters he faced in the ninth.

“(Silva) had a hard fastball and a tight slider that broke late,” said Albany designated hitter Matt Codispoti.

“He was dynamite,” said Albany coach Jon Mueller. “He has a big-time arm.

UMaine catcher Chris Bec said Silva, “went after hitters like he should instead of trying to pinpoint his pitches. He’s a warrior.”

Pena’s base hit enabled the Black Bears to avoid a massive squander and gave them a 3-0 lead.

UMaine loaded the bases without hitting the ball out of the infield as Danny Casals reached on an infield single to the shortstop hole and Jonathan Bennett and Brandon Vicens reached on bunt singles.

Kevin Doody poked a base hit into short right-center to score Casals but Albany starter John Clayton struck out Colin Ridley and got Cody Pasic on a shallow fly to left.

Pena fell behind 0-2 and Clayton began running to the dugout after he thought his 0-2 pitch was going to be called strike three.

“It was really close,” said Pena. “I thought it was a little up and a little out.”

It wasn’t and Pena grounded the next pitch up the middle — just beyond the reach of shortstop Travis Collins.

“It was something slow and I just tried to stay back on it and hit it the other way. It wound up going up the middle,” said Pena.

Clayton said he thought the 0-2 pitch was a strike but “the ump made the (ball) call so it was on to the next pitch. I threw him a curve, trying to get him to hit underneath it but he muscled it up the middle.”

America East All-Rookie team selection Clayton turned in a solid outing, allowing nine hits and four runs in six innings with four strikeouts and two walks.

Albany got one back in the fifth when Ryan Hernandez belted a long, one-out double down the left-field line, Brad Malm drew a two-out walk and Josh Gurnack, making his first start in the tournament, lined a single to center.

UMaine added an insurance run in the sixth and two more in the seventh.

In the sixth, Ridley reached when his pop fly to right landed among three fielders for a base hit. He stole second and rode home on Pasic’s ground-rule, opposite-field double to left.

“It was an outside pitch. They had been pitching me that way all day. I was waiting for it,” said Pasic.

In the seventh, Bec lined an opposite-field single to right off lefty reliever Ben Brown and stole his team-leading 16th base. Casals also went the opposite way, ripping a double to right-center to score Bec.

Brendan Smith came on to pitch and hit Bennett with a pitch. He struck out Vicens but walked Doody to load the bases and Ridley hit a sacrifice fly to center.

Bec tripled, doubled and singled for UMaine. Casals doubled and singled and Pena singled twice in the 12-hit attack. Eight of UMaine’s starters had at least one hit.

Hernandez had a single to go with his double for sixth seed Albany, which finished at 20-28.

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