Keely Clark of the University of Maine takes a swing during a softball game earlier this season. The junior has been the top hitter for the Black Bears, who have struggled offensively while being shut out four games in a row. Credit: Ronnie Gillis / UMaine Athletics

Mike Coutts has seen just about everything imaginable during a coaching career that spans nearly 40 years on a baseball diamond or softball field.

But the University of Maine women’s softball coach said his team’s recent offensive woes represent a first for him.

The Black Bears (11-19 overall, 7-8 America East) have been shut out in four straight games and in five of their last six contests.

They have gone 26 innings without scoring a run and are hitting .157 in those four games.

“It’s mind-boggling,” Coutts said. “We’ve tried different lineups, we’ve tried to hit-and-run, bunt. We’ve tried different things to create offense. It’s frustrating. It’s not as if we don’t work at it. We do. I think the kids are trying way too hard. They care so much.”

Another contributing factor is the team’s overall inexperience.

Virtually all of UMaine’s starters are freshmen and sophomores in terms of their eligibility.

The 2020 spring season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so all of UMaine’s players retained the year of eligibility. This year’s athletes won’t lose any eligibility, either.

The Black Bears played nine games last season before games were shut down.

The recent scoring drought has left UMaine needing to sweep a season-ending, regular-season series from visiting Albany to qualify for the America East Tournament.

The conference changed it from a six-team affair to a four-team tourney this year, which is a source of irritation for Coutts.

The America East men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and Hockey East’s men’s and women’s tournaments included all conference teams this season due to the scheduling upheaval and uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

America East also has reduced its baseball tournament field from six to four.

“It’s disappointing. Everyone has their own opinion, but I was against reducing it from six to four because the weather and COVID were two things we couldn’t control,” said the sixth-year head coach, who guided UMaine to the America East title and an NCAA Tournament berth in his first season in 2016.

If UMaine sweeps Albany, it would surpass the Great Danes and claim the fourth playoff spot.

UMass Lowell (7-6 AE) has two games left with last-place Hartford, so UMaine also could qualify if Hartford beats Lowell on Tuesday and Wednesday and the Black Bears win two of three against Albany.

Coutts, a former UMaine baseball standout and assistant coach, has coached at all levels of baseball. He said the Black Bears will try to get out of their funk with a healthy hitting approach during practice this week and a pitch by pitch philosophy in its final series.