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Steve Trimper could do nothing but chuckle when his phone rang Thursday afternoon.
The University of Maine baseball coach was at his Bangor home doing some quick packing as he and the team prepared to get on a bus headed for Mansfield, Conn.
The Black Bears were scheduled to play their home opener today against Maryland Baltimore County. However, with a storm approaching and Mahaney Diamond unplayable, the UMaine contingent made last-minute arrangements to relocate.
“I was trying to do everything possible to play here [in Greater Bangor],” said Trimper, whose players have slept in hotel rooms, rather than in their dormitory rooms or apartments, the last five weekends.
“It’s frustrating not to have the home weekend after we’ve been struggling at the beginning of the year,” said UMaine senior co-captain Joel Barrett of Brewer. “How we come back from this is going to be the telltale sign of our season.”
Weather permitting, UMaine hopes to play 3 p.m. doubleheaders Friday and Sunday at ECSU Baseball Stadium, the home of the Eastern Connecticut State University program.
At the urging of America East, UMaine and UMBC agreed to meet in Connecticut. Trimper played at ECSU, which is coached by Bill Holowaty, the father of Bears assistant Jared Holowaty.
UMBC had offered to host the series in Baltimore.
“At this juncture, missing class and getting guys’ tests taken care of, we couldn’t do it,” said Trimper.
He explained three or four players, including starting pitcher Greg Norton, remained behind to attend to academic responsibilities Friday and would not be able to play until Saturday.
“We weren’t prepared to have kids miss class this week,” Trimper said.
UMaine had been trying to work around Husson College’s scheduled weekend home games to play at the John Winkin Complex in Bangor. The Eagles play on synthetic FieldTurf.
However, America East stepped in and suggested the teams try to work out a compromise location somewhere in between.
“[Husson athletic director] Gabby Price and Wink [head baseball coach John Winkin] were outstanding,” Trimper said. “I can’t commend them enough, because they were flipping schedules around and moving soccer games.”
It has been a tough season thus far for UMaine, which perennially is among the last Division I baseball programs to play a game on its home field. The Bears are off to a 5-19 start and admittedly could have used a little “home cooking” to help change their fortunes.
“It’s definitely wearing,” senior tri-captain captain Joel Barrett of Brewer said of the bad weather and the last-minute change of venue.
“It’s one of those things where you want to keep hoping for the best and always stay positive, but there comes a point where it just gets ridiculous,” he added.
The Bears not only haven’t played a home game, they haven’t been able to practice outdoors – except for taking fly balls once on the Morse Field AstroTurf in Orono.
“It’s unfortunate, but there’s nothing you can do about the weather,” Trimper said. “We’re in Maine, we’re in the Northeast; we’ve got to overcome it.
Smith sets UMaine triples mark
Curt Smith is only a little more than halfway through his junior season, but already he owns the UMaine career record for triples.
Smith established a new standard March 30 at New Orleans when he legged out two triples, tying a school record, and pushed his career total to 14 three-baggers.
The 5-foot-10, 208-pounder from Willemstad, Curacao, passed 2007 graduate Joe Hough, who held the previous record with 13 triples.
Smith has since added another, giving him 15 for his career.
Black Bears suffering streaks
UMaine has found it difficult to establish much consistency this season, even at the plate.
Smith goes into the UMBC series having batted .500 (13-for-26) in his last seven games with seven RBIs and seven runs scored. Barrett is hitting at a .333 clip (9-for-27) with seven RBIs in his last seven contests.
Other top hitters in the last seven games include sophomores Kevin McAvoy of Brewer (.370, six RBIs) and Brian Hackett of Bangor (.345, 9 RBIs). McAvoy has posted two hits in five of his last seven games.
McAvoy won’t play this weekend because of an undisclosed injury.
Among those looking to break out of slumps against the Retrievers is Danny Menendez. The sophomore second baseman has only one hit in his last 20 at-bats (.050). Leadoff batter Billy Cather, a sophomore center fielder, also is mired in a 5-for-26 (.192) funk.