The University of Maine baseball team was on the brink of elimination from the America East baseball tournament chase after losing to Hartford 6-5 last Friday in the opener of a four-game set in Connecticut.
But the Black Bears’ bats came alive in dramatic fashion and they received quality starts from right-handers Alex McKenney and Noah Lewis to take the next three games and climb back into playoff hunt.
UMaine swept the Hawks 15-0 and 6-2 on Saturday and belted six homers in Sunday’s 16-6 triumph.
The Black Bears (19-18 overall, 14-15 AE) are in second place in the A Division and can clinch a tournament berth if the team can take three of four from visiting Albany (20-21, 18-16 AE) on Friday and Saturday at Mahaney Diamond in Orono. The teams will play two noon doubleheaders.
The America East’s four-team, double-elimination tourney is set for May 27-30.
America East this season moved from a single eight-team division to a pair of four-team brackets. The top two from each qualify.
The standings are based on winning percentage and, if teams are tied, it goes to head-to-head record. UMaine is 4-2 against Hartford, 2-2 with Albany and 2-6 against UMass Lowell.
Hartford faces UMass Lowell in a four-game set this weekend in Lowell, Massachusetts.
Stony Brook has clinched the top spot in the B Division. The New Jersey Institute of Technology and Binghamton are vying for second place.
Head coach Nick Derba said after UMaine’s loss to Hartford in last Friday’s series opener the team was focused in the postgame huddle and determined to win the next three.
“It’s like they were looking right through me. They were going to get it done. It was crazy,” Derba said.
As a result, the Black Bears control its own destiny.
“Other than having already clinched a playoff spot, you couldn’t have asked for a better scenario for us,” Derba said.
The setback was only the second in 10 decisions for UMaine ace pitcher Nick Sinacola. The junior right-hander set UMaine’s single-season strikeout record at 114 with seven in the contest.
In UMaine’s three wins over Hartford, the Black Bears hit .364 with eight home runs and 10 doubles.
“I couldn’t have been happier with the way they swung the bats,” Derba said.
On Sunday, the Black Bears used a five-run, fourth-inning rally to erase a 4-3 deficit. Sean Lawlor’s solo homer tied it and the Black Bears received RBI singles from Jayson Gonzalez, Connor Goodman and Scout Knotts.
Lawlor and Ryan Turenne each stroked a pair of solo homers while Jake Marquez and Knotts walloped three-run shots and both drove in four runs.
Everyone in the UMaine lineup had at least one hit. Joe Bramanti had a double and two singles while Turenne, Lawlor, Gonzalez, Knotts and Goodman had two singles apiece.
Jacob Small earned the win with three innings of one-hit, scoreless relief.
In Saturday’s opener, Hampden’s McKenney pitched six innings of one-hit, shutout ball with six strikeouts and three walks.
Quinn McDaniel’s two-run double in the second inning supplied the Black Bears with the only runs they were to need in the first game. Turenne’s three-run double and Goodman’s two-run single keyed a nine-run third.
Goodman finished with a double and two singles while Jake Rainess and Colby Emmertz each hit two-run homers. Rainess also had a single while Bramanti and Turenne each doubled and singled.
In the second game, UMaine spotted Hartford a 2-0 lead but Marquez tied it with a two-run single in the second and UMaine took the lead with three in the fifth on Knotts’ RBI double and an infield error.
Jeff Mejia and Marquez had two hits each for Maine and South Portland’s Lewis scattered three hits and two runs through six innings with five strikeouts and three walks. Brewer’s Matt Pushard pitched a scoreless seventh.