The victories haven’t come easy this season for the University of Maine baseball team.
The Black Bears have been left a bit thin by injuries and attrition, but have still put together a solid stretch recently.
Coach Steve Trimper’s team extended its winning streak to six games with Saturday’s doubleheader sweep of New York Tech, then bounced back after losing Sunday’s opener to win the second game in dramatic fashion.
Greg Norton’s game-winning, two-run double in the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday – in his first collegiate at-bat – should help send UMaine (12-20, 4-4 America East) into this week’s busy schedule with a boost of confidence.
The Bears open the week with Tuesday’s home game against Division III Colby College of Waterville, then visit Sienna for a non-league game Thursday before opening a four-game conference weekend series Friday at Albany.
“Next weekend going to Albany, we needed to go in there on a high note,” said freshman outfielder Kevin Jackson. “I think we’re going to go in there nice and hot. It’s all about momentum.”
UMaine has showed some resilience the last two weekends, despite failing to put a lot of runs on the scoreboard and experiencing a general lack of depth.
South Portland’s Norton came through despite his lack of recent hitting experience and twice served as a pinch runner in the series. Sophomore pitcher Mike Powers of Portland even made an appearance in left field Sunday.
“We seem to be getting a lot of those [wins] right now,” senior Matt McGraw said after Sunday’s nail-biting finale. “It’s not like we’re going out and hammering the ball and throwing up ace performances on the mound every game so we have to learn how to win these games.”
The Bears have already lost their starting catcher and a reserve pitcher to disciplinary action this season, while another pitcher, Pat Moran, left the team. Freshman catcher Myckie Lugbauer, who had assumed the starting role, has been limited to the designated hitter role because of a knee injury suffered April 13.
Kevin McAvoy of Brewer, who has been a key hitter in the lineup, sat out the Maryland Baltimore County Series with a bruised tailbone. He was not cleared to run against New York Tech, but instead made his first collegiate pitching start Sunday and had two pinch-hitting appearances.
The Bears’ mound staff also has been thinned by injuries. Junior transfer Joel Thorney is out for the season after undergoing another elbow surgery, while lefthanded starter Nolan Boike has been on the shelf the past two weeks with an undisclosed injury.
“We’re thin with some injuries,” said Trimper, who used outfielder Bobby Brown for a one-inning relief pitching stint Saturday, the first mound appearance of his career.
In spite of the setbacks, the Bears continue to persevere.
“We’re playing a lot better,” Trimper said.
Domel no longer with Bears
Trimper confirmed Sunday that UMaine assistant coach Cory Domel has left the team.
Domel, who was in his second season with the program, left the team almost two weeks ago, prior to the Bears’ America East series against UMBC.
“He took some time for personal reasons,” Trimper said. “He said he wanted to get some time off last week and I said no problem. We’ve been talking and we’ll re-evaluate [his situation] at the end of the season.”
Domel could not be reached for comment Monday.
“I think it was more of a personal issue and I don’t want to get involved with it,” Trimper added.
Domel, a 2001 graduate of Western Illinois University, has served as UMaine’s pitching coach and recruiting coordinator since joining Trimper’s staff in 2005.
“The guys have reacted fine,” Trimper said of his pitchers, who are now working with graduate assistant and former Bears catcher Aaron Izaryk.
Domel is expected to be featured Friday on the insidepitching.com Web site. His article is entitled, “Attack the Running Game.”