Black Bears baseball stabilizing after early season woes

Coughing up a trio of late runs that tied the game, it looked like Maine’s baseball team was on the verge of losing to the Thomas College Terriers on Wednesday. The Black Bears refused to melt under the pressure, scoring four straight runs in the eighth inning to win it 8-4.

With their third straight win, Maine raised their record to 8-22. Thomas on the other hand, fell to 10-11 after the loss. Despite playing against a division three team, Maine approached the game like any other.

“I think today we didn’t play our best,” Head Coach Steve Trimper said. “We scored early and then let some things slip by. We didn’t get the big hits here and there, but no matter who we are playing, we’ve got to try to win those games.”

First-year outfielder Colin Ridley had a solid game for the Black Bears. He took four trips up to bat, grabbing two hits and two runs. Fourth-year infielder Brett Chappell had two hits, batted in two players and scored a run in his four trips up to the plate. With a solid outing from experienced players like Chappell, fourth-year first baseman Brenden Geary and third-year outfielder Tyler Schwanz, it’s clear that the upperclassmen are leaving their recent slump.

“I like the way the upperclassmen are swinging the last three or four games,” Trimper said. “We can’t always rely on the three freshman that are obviously good players in (Danny) Casals, (Jeremy) Pena and Ridley, but they can’t carry the team on their shoulders. It has to be a team atmosphere up and down the lineup for us to have a chance to win it.”

It wasn’t a memorable day pitching for either team. Fourth-year pitcher Isaiah Fleming received the start for Thomas. He allowed two hits and two runs before getting replaced by second-year pitcher Matt Rutherford in the second inning. Though he earned three saves in his three innings of action, second-year pitcher Jonah Normandeau gave away three hits and one run for Maine.

The Terriers took the initial lead at the top of the first. On his opening swing, fourth-year outfielder Anree Benitez struck a single, and then managed to steal second base moments later. Benitez made it to third when second-year first baseman Derek Kane forced a walk. First-year outfielder Zach Mathieu earned a fielder’s choice, making the trip home for Benitez all too easy. With the single run, the Terriers grabbed the 1-0 advantage.

It didn’t take long for the Black Bears to snatch the lead, as they scored two runs at the bottom of the first. First-year infielder Danny Casals forced a walk, before stealing second base. On a passed ball, Casals once again found the opportunity to steal third. Ridley then doubled, letting Casals complete his trip around the diamond. A hit from Geary gave Ridley a chance to tally a run of his own. With the pair of scores, the Black Bears took the 2-1 lead.

Maine refused to slow down at the bottom of the third. Ridley singled to right field, before a ground ball from Schwanz allowed Ridley to grab second base. Geary walked, letting both players take a step closer to home plate. Then, Chappell struck a double, getting both Ridley and Schwanz to finish their runs. The pair of scores advanced Maine’s lead to 4-1.

At the top of the sixth, Thomas began their rally back. Fourth-year shortstop Nik Beeson singled, before second-year third baseman Michael De Los Santos walked, letting Beeson get to second base. With a ground ball from second-year outfielder Curran Quinlan, Beeson reached third. Finally, a single from second-year infielder Tristan Pena brought Beeson through home plate, lowering Maine’s advantage to 4-2.

The Terriers managed to tie it up at the top of the seventh. Benitez singled to left field, before Kane doubled. With Benitez on third base, Mathieu once again reached on a fielder’s choice, giving Benitez the opportunity to cap off his run. A hit from Beeson then brought Kane through home, knotting the game up at 4-4.

With the game on the line, the Black Bears came through when it mattered most. At the bottom of the eighth, Schwanz singled to left field. Moments later, Geary doubled, putting himself and Schwanz in an optimal scoring position. A throwing error from the Terriers’ second baseman allowed Schwanz to score his run. A bunt and a fielder’s choice then brought Geary through home plate. Later on, Chappell managed to finish a run when second-year infielder Caleb Kerbs hit a fly ball. Then, another fly ball over center field from first-year infielder Jeremy Pena allowed third-year outfielder Jake Osborne to score the inning’s fourth run. At the end of eight, the Black Bears held the commanding lead, and after the Terriers had no hits in the ninth, Maine held on to win it 8-4. Despite Thomas’ statues as a division three team, Maine looked at this as just another win.

“We finally got something going; we’ve got a couple games in a row. They’re a tough team to beat because it’s not something we’re use to, the velocity is different, there are a lot of different things that go on,” Casals said. “It was good to have a win and get something going into a conference weekend.”

Baseball splits doubleheader with UMBC

In the second game of their Saturday doubleheader, Maine was three outs away from sweeping Univeristy of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Instead, second-year pitcher John Arel threw a slider which was knocked out of the park, giving the Retrievers the 3-1 victory. In the first game, the Black Bears scored five runs in the second inning to win the contest 6-3.

The split home doubleheader left Maine at 9-23 on the year, with a 1-6 record in America East games. UMBC advanced to 16-15 overall, with a 6-4 mark within their conference.

In the first game, Maine finally won their first conference matchup of the season when they beat the Retrievers 6-3.

Second-year pitcher Matt Chanin played the first two innings for UMBC before being pulled. During that time, he allowed seven hits and five runs, while only striking out two batters. Fourth-year pitcher Logan Fullmer received the start on the mound for Maine. He played all nine innings, giving up 12 hits and three runs, but also forcing four strikeouts. During the game, he was tasked with stopping one of America East’s best rotations of batters.

“You just got to hit spots and pitch to your strengths. You almost let them put the ball in play. Coming in we knew they have almost a .300 batting average as a team. We knew they were going to put the ball in play,” Fullmer said.

Once again, Ridley made an impact for Maine. He stepped up to bat four times, getting three hits and a run. Chappell and Osborne both went up to bat four times, grabbing two hits and a run, each. In the contest, the Retrievers managed to narrowly out hit the Black Bears 12-11. Prior to the game, it was clear this would be a tough test for Maine’s recent resurgence.

“They’re a good team, I think they’re probably one of the better teams right now,” Trimper said. “They’re the best offensive team we’ve seen.”

The Retrievers scored the game’s initial run at the top of the second. It began when third-year outfielder Andrew Casali singled to left field. Casali then made it to second base following a bunt from fourth-year outfielder Nick Naumann. When first-year infielder AJ Wright singled to center field, Casali made it to third. Wright then was caught stealing second, however, Maine’s defense failed to notice Casali running untouched into home plate. Casali’s steal gave UMBC the early 1-0 advantage.

The Black Bears wasted no time answering the score, as Maine ripped off five runs at the bottom of the second. After singling up the middle, then being brought to second on a wild pitch, Ridley completed his journey home after a single from Chappell. Following a double from Geary, Chappell found himself on third. A single up the middle by Osborne, followed by a throwing error on the play, led to both Chappell and Geary scoring. A few moments later, Casals brought Osborne through home plate with a single to left field. Finally, the inning ended with Ridley once again coming up to bat to help bring Kerbs through home with a single. The Black Bears took the commanding 5-1 lead.

Maine continued to expand upon their lead at the bottom of the third. As the result of being hit by a pitch, Schwanz made it to first base. Geary then forced a walk, getting Schwanz to second. After Osborne reached on a fielder’s choice, Schwanz advanced to third. While Osborne got out trying to steal second, Schwanz was able to make it to home plate unnoticed, giving the Black Bears the 6-1 advantage.

The Retrievers attempted a comeback at the top of the seventh. Third-year outfielder Tim Kelly doubled to left field, before a walk got him on to third base. A single from second-year infielder Mitchell Carroll resulted in Kelly finishing the run. Carroll completed a run of his own when fourth-year infielder Kevin Lachance struck a triple. After the pair of runs, Maine still held onto the 6-3 advantage. Despite having two more innings to comeback, the Retrievers failed to get anything going the remainder of the game. Following their fourth straight win, the Black Bears felt they were returning to their early season form.

“The last two weeks we’ve really started to come back together how we were the first two or three weeks of the season,” Chappell said.

Baseball Loses to UMBC 3-1

Though they held a one-run lead heading into the final inning of the second game, the Black Bears watched helplessly as a home run from third-year first baseman Connor Hax ended any chance of Maine sweeping Saturday’s doubleheader. With a trio of runs in the seventh inning, the Retrievers snatched the victory from the Black Bears, 3-1.

Chappell had a solid game, stepping up to bat three times, while getting Maine’s only run of the day. Behind him, no Black Bears tallied more than just a single hit. For UMBC, Hax ended the day with a hit and a run, while batting in two other runners with his homerun. Wright made the most of his three trips to the plate, accumulating a pair of hits and a run. The Retrievers also narrowly out hit the Black Bears 7-5 in the contest.

Arel received the start on the mound for Maine. He played all seven innings, forcing four strikeouts, while also giving up seven hits and three runs. Outside of one bad throw, he played very well throughout the game. UMBC elected to go with fourth-year pitcher Conrad Wozniak. During the seven innings, he struck out nine different batters, while only allowing five hits and a single run. At the end of the day, the game was decided by each team’s pitching.

“You basically locked up two very good pitchers,” Trimper said. “There’s the conference’s pitcher of the year last year and then John (Arel) went toe to toe. Their guy made one bad pitch, our guy made one bad pitch. That’s what it came down to.”

After three scoreless innings, the Black Bears took the lead at the bottom of the fourth. Chappell stepped up to the plate and slung Wozniak’s first pitch of the inning over the fence. However, the home run came with bases empty, giving Maine the initial 1-0 advantage. Wozniak played the whole game throwing an assortment of different pitches, which limited Maine’s hitting abilities.

“He really kept everyone on their toes. Like for me, he got me a few times guessing, once at bat I guessed right, but other than that all day he shut us down,” Chappell said.

The Retrievers fought back at the top of the seventh, scoring a trio of runs to steal the victory from the Black Bears. It began when Casali singled up the middle. Then Wright hit a single over third base, allowing Casali to steal second. With two runners on bases, Hax stepped up to the plate. Arel went to throw a slider, but the pitch just wasn’t executed well enough. Hax struck a homerun on the ball, getting himself, Wright and Casali through home plate. The home run gave UMBC the go ahead 3-1 advantage over Maine. After the game, Arel reflected on the game ending pitch.

“It was a good call for a pitch, I just didn’t bury it,” Arel said. “It was a bad pitch by me, just left it up there for him to hit. He just took advantage of it.”

At the bottom of the seventh, the Black Bears needed to play perfectly to comeback, but their offense struggled. Geary fouled out to first base, and then Osborne struck out swinging. With two outs, Kerbs struck a ball straight into the pitcher’s mitt, marking the third and final out, and preserving the Retrievers’ 3-1 victory. After the game, the Black Bears acknowledged that they struggled to get effective hits.

“You can’t do it every game,” Chappell said. “It’s not like every time we came up, we struck out. I think we hit the ball hard, we put the ball in play, it was just right to someone.”

Maine finishes off weekend with 7-5 win

Following a seventh inning where they scored five runs, the Black Bears were able to battle back from a two-run deficit to beat UMBC 7-5 in the final match of their three game series on Sunday.

With the win, the Black Bears end their week standing at 10-23 overall, with a 2-6 record inside of the America East. On the other hand, the Retrievers now fall to 16-16 on the season, with a 6-5 mark in conference matches. The series allowed the Black Bears to start building some confidence heading forward.

“That was a good game, it was a good series,” Trimper said. “It was two pretty good ball clubs, they both played well. There wasn’t a ton of errors.”

Stepping up to bat four times, Pena ended the day with three hits and two runs, while also batting in two runners. For UMBC, Lachance had a solid game, notching two hits and two runs. Maine also managed to out hit UMBC 10-9.

Second-year pitcher Chris Murphy started on the mound for the Black Bears. In his four innings of action, he allowed three hits, two runs and five walks. Despite this, he managed to force seven strikeouts. Third-year pitcher Cory Callahan saw the initial action for the Retrievers. He played in six innings, striking out four batters, while allowing four hits and a single run.

In the bottom of the first, the Black Bears got the game’s first run. Pena began by striking a triple down center field. Then, fourth-year catcher Kevin Stypulkowski hit a groundball that slid past the first baseman, allowing Pena to complete his quick journey around the diamond. This run gave Maine the initial 1-0 lead.

Things started to go wrong for Maine defensively at the top of the third. It began when Carroll singled up the middle. While Carroll attempted to steal second, Stypulkowski overthrew the second baseman, letting Carroll steal at the way to third. When fourth-year infielder Anthony Gatto struck a single to right field, Carroll completed his run, knotting up the game at 1-1.

Murphy’s pitching struggles plagued the Black Bears at the top of the fourth. He started the inning by giving up a walk to Wright. Then, Wright managed to steal second base on a wild pitch. When Murphy once again gave up a walk to Lachance, Wright advanced to third. When he gave up a third walk to Gatto, Wright managed to score, giving the Retrievers the 2-1 advantage.

UMBC managed to pull ahead further at the top of the sixth. With bases empty, first-year pitcher Nick Silva threw a ball to Lachance, who flung it over the left edge of the fence. The homerun raised the Retrievers lead to 3-1.

The Black Bears stole the lead at the bottom of the seventh with five runs. Kerbs kicked off the inning by forcing a walk, before another walk from Casals brought Kerbs onto second base. With a single from Pena, Kerbs managed to score, while Casals took over third. When Stypulkowski hit a single, Casals finished his journey home, tying the game at 3-3. The Black Bears didn’t stop as Ridley struck a triple, letting both Pena and Stypulkowski score a run each. Geary ended the inning by hitting a single which allowed Ridley to finish a run of his own. With only two inning left to play, the Black Bears held the 6-3 advantage.

Maine got their final run of the game in the bottom of the eighth. Kerbs singled to the right side of the field, before Casals brought him to second base. With a single from Pena, Kerbs completed his run home, giving Maine the 7-3 lead.

At the top of the ninth, UMBC scored a pair of runs, but were unable to comeback. Lachance hit a single past the pitcher, before Gatto doubled, getting Lachance to third base. When Switalski hit a fly ball, Lachance capped off his run. The Retrievers got another score when Casali singled up the middle, allowing Gatto to score. With the two runs, the game ended 7-5 in favor of Maine.

“I think I built some confidence, and also the team because this series, we got our first conference win, and we also got our first conference series win,” Pena said. “I think we’re just going to go forward from here.”

The Black Bears return to action when they host the University of Maine, Presque Isle on Tuesday, April 19. at 4 p.m.

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