The Florida trip was fairly successful for the University of Maine baseball team.
Coach Steve Trimper’s Black Bears hit well, played solid defense and pitched decently while compiling a 9-8 record.
Starting this weekend, UMaine will try to build on its successes and rectify some of its shortcomings as it begins the northern portion of its 56-game schedule with a three-game series on Long Island against New York Tech.
Trimper’s biggest concern coming back from Florida is his team’s pitching.
“I think our whole pitching staff’s been very inconsistent,” Trimper said of a staff that owns a puffy 7.04 earned run average and has allowed 198 hits with 87 strikeouts and 73 walks in 145 2/3 innings.
However, UMaine has largely been without senior righthander Greg Norton of South Portland and promising freshman righty Mike Powers of Portland because of injuries.
“Between Norty and Powers, that’s two guys that are going to pitch big innings for us,” Trimper said. “We’re bringing them along very slowly because we need them to be 100 percent.”
Norton, who was 9-4 last season with a 3.15 ERA, is rehabilitating his shoulder after undergoing surgery last September.
The promising Powers worked only 2 2/3 innings in Florida after coming off a stress fracture in his throwing hand.
“We’re bringing them along very slowly because we need them to be 100 percent for the conference season,” said Trimper, who indicated Norton likely would do a cold weather workout soon in the hope of getting into a game, at least in a limited role, in the next week or so.
Perhaps the best pitching development in Florida was the emergence of Josh Zyskowski. The junior righty went 0-0 with a 3.38 ERA in two starts, striking out 13 in 13 1/3 innings.
“Zyskowski was probably the biggest surprise of the trip,” Trimper said. “He went out and he was lights out against FIU [Florida International]. We broke their 10-game winning streak.”
Opponents batted only .229 against Zyskowski.
The Bears demonstrated plenty of offensive punch, posting a .328 team batting average while scoring almost nine runs per contest.
The unexpected leader of the offensive charge was Kevin McAvoy of Brewer. The freshman third baseman returned to Maine as the team’s leading hitter with a .434 average, three home runs and 21 RBIs.
“From working with him for the last six or seven months, I knew he was a good hitter, but he was just on fire,” Trimper said. “The thing he’s not doing like a freshman is he’s putting the ball in play with two strikes. He really stepped up and hit good pitching.”
Other offensive mainstays included shortstop Curt Smith (.425, 10 doubles, 19 RBI), designated hitter Matt McGraw (.393, 13 RBI) and first baseman Joel Barrett of Brewer (.360, 20 RBI).
“I thought we hit extremely well and we saw good pitching,” Trimper said.
In the field, the Bears fielded at a .961 clip, committing 25 errors in 17 games (1.5 per outing). Sophomore Smith, who is making the switch from third base to shortstop, had eight of those miscues.
“I think Curt did a very good job learning shortstop, for his first time playing there,” Trimper said.