Even though it doesn’t feel like spring in eastern Maine, the University of Maine baseball team will open its season on Friday with a three-game set at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
Even so, the Black Bears won’t be donning short sleeves because the predicted weather is sunny, with temperatures in the mid 40s on Friday and Saturday and a chance of rain and 54 on Sunday.
The games are set for 4 p.m Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
Fourth-year head coach Nick Derba’s Black Bears are coming off a disappointing 15-34 campaign. They went 11-12 in America East and were eliminated in two games from the conference tournament.
Due to a shorter March break schedule, UMaine has only 10 games before opening its America East schedule March 14 at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. UMaine played 18 games prior to its league opener last season and 21 the year before.
Derba will have plenty of work to do prior to the league opener because he must replace All-America East first-team pitcher Cody Laweryson and first-team designated hitter/third baseman Danny Casals along with starting pitcher Nick Silva.
First-team right fielder Hernen Sardinas has moved to center field and second-teamer Joe Bramanti will move over to third base from first.
Sophomore Nick Sinacola will be the starting pitcher for Friday’s game with Brewer redshirt junior Matt Pushard, Bangor junior Peter Kemble, freshman Colton Carson of Paris and Hampden redshirt junior Alex McKenney among the possible starters for the other two games.
Pushard and McKenney have struggled with arm ailments but are healthy now.
Bangor senior Trevor DeLaite, who notched seven saves as the team’s closer last year, has moved into the starting rotation but has a minor lower-body strain and won’t pitch this weekend, Derba said.
“I’m looking for six arms to get us through our America East [three-game] series,” Derba said.
Several other pitchers will also get looks over the next 10 games.
Ryan Turenne, an AE All-Rookie choice, is in the mix at first base and behind the plate. He can also serve as the designated hitter. Senior Cody Pasic will do most of the catching.
Senior Jeff Omohundro returns at shortstop and sophomore Mike Sabatine, who got 54 at-bats a year ago, is in left field. East Tennessee State transfer Colby Emmertz of Falmouth will get Friday’s start at second base.
Right field and first base are up for grabs, as is the closer role.
Derba is looking for his team to play with more tenacity and consistency than last year and execute the fundamentals.
“I want them to bring energy and grind for an entire weekend. I don’t want them to take a single play off. I want them to be locked in,” Derba said.
“And I want them to execute the basic fundamentals: throw strikes, fewer than three walks [issued] per game, get bunts down, make plays, move runners over,” he added.
Winthrop is coming off a 34-23 season and a berth in the Big South championship game where they lost to future UMaine opponent Campbell University (North Carolina).