September 16, 2019

Pitching leads Bears to sweep Balsinde, Norton shine as Maine tops UMBC

MANSFIELD, Conn. – With his teammates mounting an eighth-inning rally, Alejandro Balsinde trotted down to the bullpen to get loose.

The sophomore righthander wanted to be ready to reprise his familiar role as the University of Maine closer. Only this time, the unfinished business was his own.

Balsinde worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning Saturday night to wrap up a five-hitter that punctuated the Black Bears’ 8-1 victory and an America East doubleheader sweep of Maryland Baltimore County.

“I needed to throw some and I thought it would be a good idea,” said Balsinde (1-3). “That’s what I’m used to. I’m not used to coming out of the dugout.”

Coach Steve Trimper’s Bears (9-19, 4-4 AE), who had edged the Retrievers 3-1 in Saturday’s seven-inning opener behind Greg Norton’s complete-game effort, earned a four-game sweep at Eastern Connecticut State University.

“If you want to write a book about how to play baseball, it starts and ends on the mound,” Trimper said. “We got good pitching, which leads to good defense.”

The lanky Balsinde demonstrated his versatility. The previous weekend at Stony Brook, he made his first collegiate start – and only the second of his career – when Mike Powers came down with the flu.

On Saturday, Balsinde got the nod with starter Nolan Boike out with an injury.

“We turned him into a starter last week in an emergency and tonight he goes out there and pitches a complete game,” Trimper said.

Balsinde, a Miami native, said he will do whatever is needed to help the team.

“I like to pitch as much as possible, so whenever they tell me to pitch, I’ll pitch,” he said.

Balsinde was in command from the outset. He featured a good fastball with excellent location and kept UMBC batters off-balance with an effective changeup and a sneaky slider.

He struck out four and did not walk a batter while throwing 104 pitches, 72 for strikes.

Balsinde was ill and stayed at the hotel for Friday’s twinbill.

“I threw up 12 times, so I took the day off,” he said.

Balsinde set down 14 consecutive UMBC hitters during one stretch and retired 10 of the last 11 men he faced.

“When you get ahead of guys early in the count, it makes it a lot easier to finish them off, make them swing at pitches they don’t really want to swing at,” said senior catcher Matt McGraw.

The Retrievers (8-21, 0-8 AE) had broken a scoreless tie in the sixth inning on Joe Fowler’s double to right-center, a passed ball and Will Delawter’s sharp single to center.

UMaine responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning. McGraw got things started with a pretty bunt single and trotted home on Curt Smith’s line-drive home run to right field.

Joel Barrett of Brewer roped a double to right-center. Two outs later, pinch hitter Tavis Hasenfus of Winthrop walked and Bangor’s Brian Hackett followed with a hard RBI single to left.

“I’m really proud of our offense that we could generate runs, even when we were down late in the game, when we had to come from behind,” McGraw said.

The Bears iced it with five runs in the eighth. Key blows included freshman Kevin Jackson’s two-run single and RBI hits by Billy Cather and McGraw.

Jackson added a double while Danny Menendez provided a double, a single and a sacrifice fly and wound up going 8-for-11 with four RBIs and five runs scored in the series.

Barrett doubled, singled, and scored twice and McGraw singled twice (RBI). Fowler doubled twice for UMBC.

In the opener, Norton scattered eight hits and allowed only one run, while the Bears parlayed their four hits into three runs.

Norton (3-3), who relied mostly on locating his fastball, struck out three and walked only one.

“That was obviously my best outing of the year,” said Norton, who sat out last season after undergoing rotator cuff surgery. “It’s come at a good time. Hopefully I can build off it and help the team out in conference [play].”

The senior righthander from South Portland induced 11 groundouts and was backed by errorless defense, including a superb play by third baseman Smith in the third inning with a runner at second.

“Our defense played unbelievable today,” Norton said. “Curt made some really great plays over there, saved me a few times.”

The Bears staked Norton to a 2-0 lead in the first. Cather drew a leadoff walk, stole second and took third when the catcher’s throw bounded into center field. He scored on McGraw’s groundout.

Barrett then homered around the left-field foul pole.

The Retrievers trimmed the deficit to 2-1 in the fourth on Tom Rinaldi’s opposite-field single to left-center.

UMaine tallied an insurance run in the sixth when Menendez slapped a single through the middle, moved up on Cather’s sacrifice and scored when McGraw lashed a single into center field.

Righty Marty Zawacki turned in a strong outing for UMBC. He scattered four hits, striking out two and walking two. He retired 13 consecutive UMaine batters before Menendez singled to open the sixth.

Smith doubled for the Bears. Mark Lemon doubled and singled to lead UMBC.


(Saturday’s First Game, 7 innings)

UMBC (8-20) Maine (8-19)

Player AB R H BI Player AB R H BI

Russo, lf 4 0 1 0 Cather, cf 1 1 0

Fowler, 2b 4 0 0 0 McGraw, c 3 0 2

Bowen, ss 4 0 1 0 Smith, 3b 3 0 0

Delawter, dh 3 1 1 0 Barrett, 1b 2 1 1

Gale, 1b 3 0 1 0 Lugbauer, dh 3 0 0

Scheffel, cf 3 0 1 0 Ostrander, rf 3 0 0

Meaney, c 0 0 0 0 Jackson, lf 2 0 0

Rinaldi, c 2 0 1 1 Hasenfus, lf 0 0 0

Peddicord, rf 3 0 1 0 Hackett, ss 2 0

Lemon, 3b 2 0 1 0 Menendez, 2b 2 1 0

Totals 28 1 8 1 Totals 21 3 4 3

UMBC 000 100 0 – 1

Maine 200 001 x – 3

E-Meaney (3); LOB-UMBC 8; Maine 3; 2B-Lemon; Smith; HR-Barrett (4); S-Cather; SB-Cather (9)


Zawacki (L, 2-4) 6 4 3 3 2 2


Norton (W, 3-3) 7 8 1 1 1 2

HBP-Meaney (by Norton); T-1:38; ATT-50


(Saturday’s Second Game)

UMBC (8-21) Maine (9-19)

Player AB R H BI Player AB R H BI

Russo, lf 4 0 0 0 Cather, cf 5 1 1

Fowler, 2b 4 1 2 0 McGraw, c 4 1 1

Bowen, ss 4 0 0 0 Smith, 3b 5 1 2

Delawter, dh 4 0 1 1 Barrett, 1b 4 2 0

Scheffel, cf 4 0 0 0 Lugbauer, dh 3 0 0

Peddicord, rf 4 0 1 0 Brown, pr 0 0

Gale, 1b 3 0 1 0 Jackson, lf 4 1 2

Lemon, 3b 3 0 0 0 Ostrander, rf 2 0 0

Phillips, c 3 0 0 0 Hasenfus, rf 0 1 0

Hackett, ss 2 0 1 1

Menendez, 2b 3 0 2 1

Totals 33 1 5 1 Totals 32 8 12 8

UMBC 000 001 000 – 1

Maine 000 003 05x – 8

E-Smith (16); LOB-UMBC 5; Maine 7; 2B-Fowler 2; Barrett, Jackson, Menendez; HR-Smith (3); DP- Peddicord-Gale, Bowen-Fowler-Gale; S-Hackett; SF-Menendez; SB-Brown (1)


Sauter (L, 1-1) 5 2/3 7 3 3 4 3

Buchholz 1 1/3 2 2 2 0 1

Schlein 1 3 3 3 1 0


Balsinde (W, 1-3) 9 5 1 1 0 4

PB-McGraw; T-1:51; ATT-50

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