ORONO, Maine — Last year, first baseman Joe Bramanti played in just six games as a freshman at the University of Maine. Ryan Turenne was catching at Bridgton Academy and Mike Sabatine was roaming center field for Fairport High School in New York.
But all three will be in the starting lineup on Wednesday at 11 a.m. when the Black Bears face UMass Lowell in the America East baseball tournament opener in Vestal, New York.
Bramanti, of North Andover, Massachusetts, is UMaine’s leading hitter at .304. He is also second on the team in runs batted in (31) and is tied for second in doubles (13) and runs scored (33).
Turenne, of Lynn, Massachusetts, is hitting .424 (14-for-33) over his last 10 games to raise his average to .253. He has played in 28 games and has two homers, four doubles and 13 RBIs.
Turenne became the everyday catcher when junior Cody Pasic was moved to third base because regular third baseman Danny Casals has a tender shoulder and is serving as the designated hitter.
Sabatine became the starting center fielder four games ago because Kevin Doody was bothered by hamstring problems and was struggling at the plate.
Sabatine has responded by going 6-for-15 (.400) in that span.
Bramanti admitted that last year was frustrating because he wasn’t used to sitting.
“But I understood it. I struggled when I got my chance,” said Bramanti, who went 2-for-15.
He worked hard over the summer. He hit .338 for the Rome Generals of the New York Collegiate Baseball League before moving on to the Futures Collegiate Baseball League of New England, where he hit .250 for the Nashua (New Hampshire) Silver Knights.
“I got to play every day and I worked on my swing every day,” Bramanti said. “There was better competition in the Futures League. I helped me to get where I am right now.”
Bramanti had a productive fall season at UMaine and said he proved why he should be in the lineup. He has become a more selective hitter, working 25 walks and leading the team with a .412 on-base percentage.
“I can fight off close pitches on two-strike counts. I have a good idea of what the strike zone is and how the umpire is going to call the game,” Bramanti said.
Being the clean-up hitter is a challenging role that he enjoys.
“You have to bring runs in,” Bramanti said.
“He has really stepped it up this year. We needed that. He has been a huge part of our team,” junior Hernen Sardinas said.
UMaine head coach Nick Derba had been trying to figure out how to get Turenne’s bat in the lineup and is glad he found a way.
“I feel great about him. And he has come a long way behind the plate,” Derba said.
“I feel really comfortable right now,” Turenne said. “I’m happy with how I’ve been playing.”
He said it was a sizeable jump from Bridgton Academy to UMaine.
“I had been seeing low-80s [miles-per-hour pitches at Bridgton] and now I’m seeing high 80s and 90s, especially early against the big schools like Mississippi State and Florida State,” Turenne said.
Behind the plate, he said he has tried to relax and make sure the pitching staff has confidence in him.
“He had to step into a big role as the everyday catcher and has done a real good job,” Laweryson said.
In trying to make sure he was ready to contribute when called upon, Sabatine said he took on the role of providing energy and enthusiasm on the bench.
“He works extremely hard,” Derba said. “He is really locked into the game even if he isn’t playing. He got his chance at BC, made a few good plays and got a couple of knocks (hits).”
With upperclassmen ahead of him in the outfield, he embraced his reserve role while trying to learn from the coaches and outfielders like Doody and Colin Ridley.
“It’s nice to be [in the lineup],” said Sabatine, who hits eighth in the order. “I’m doing all I can for my teammates.
“I have proven a lot to myself the past few games. I’ve gotten some confidence,” he added.