July 02, 2020

Black Bears’ defense backs Balsinde UMaine cruises past Hartford

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – Alejandro Balsinde admits he had never allowed 15 hits – and won.

Monday afternoon, the sophomore righthander found a way. Backed by error-free defense and a surging University of Maine offense, Balsinde worked around constant Hartford threats as the Black Bears earned a 16-3 America East baseball victory.

Third-place UMaine (20-27, 11-9 AE) is now within one win of earning a spot in next week’s four-team conference tournament. It will be hosted by the highest-seeded team that can procure a field with lights.

“We’re extremely pleased,” said coach Steve Trimper, whose UMaine team has won six of its last seven. “Right now, we’re in with some help. If Vermont loses three out of four, we’re in.”

The Bears, who entertain Northeastern today in a 5 p.m. nonleague game, face league leader Binghamton next weekend in Orono.

Balsinde (3-4) contained the Hawks (13-33, 9-14 AE) for eight innings, despite frequent challenges. Hartford, which was eliminated from playoff contention, had baserunners in every inning but the second, but couldn’t get many clutch hits.

“I didn’t really have my best stuff today, but I was able to win, so I’ll take it,” Balsinde said.

“I think the only time I wasn’t frustrated was in the ninth inning when I was out of the game,” he admitted.

UMaine turned three double plays behind Balsinde on the artificial surface.

“He keeps you in the game. He battles. He’s a bulldog,” Trimper said of Balsinde. “He’s going to give up his hits because he’s not a strikeout guy, but we did play great defense today.”

Hartford went 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position and wound up stranding 10 runners.

“A.J. was giving up those hits, but he just doesn’t give up hits at key times,” said UMaine tri-captain Joel Barrett of Brewer. “He just buckles down and gets those guys out [with runners] in scoring position.”

UMaine manufactured plenty of runs, but didn’t break the game open until scoring nine times in the eighth. Kevin McAvoy of Brewer was among the catalysts, ending a recent 1-for-14 slump with two of the Bears’ season-high five home runs.

“We worked on a couple little [mental] things and he busted out,” Trimper said of McAvoy. “I’m really impressed with him doing that today because we need him down the stretch.”

The sophomore jacked a two-run shot to left to give the Bears a 2-1 lead in the fourth, then lined a solo blast in the sixth to make it 4-1. McAvoy, the AE rookie of the year in 2006, hasn’t found the same groove this spring.

“With the level of play I set for myself last year, I feel like I need to go over and past that,” he said. “Everybody was just telling me to relax and have fun and just go out and hit the way I know how to hit. I guess I found the meaning of that today.”

Barrett pounded four hits, including a solo homer in the sixth and an RBI double in the seventh, to spearhead UMaine’s 18-hit onslaught.

Myckie Lugbauer belted a three-run homer in the eighth and singled while Matt McGraw drilled a two-run homer in the ninth and hit an RBI single. Curt Smith and Billy Cather each posted two singles and two RBIs, while Brian Hackett of Bangor added two singles.

Leading 5-3, UMaine ended the suspense in the eighth. Lugbauer walked, McAvoy was hit by a pitch and Bob Rogers came on and got an out on Kevin Jackson’s failed sacrifice.

Hackett beat out an infield hit before Danny Menendez singled home a run. McGraw lashed an RBI single, then Cather scorched a two-run single up the middle to make it 9-3. Smith added a two-run single and Lugbauer capped the rally with a towering three-run blast to right.

Brady Stouffer paced Hartford with a solo homer, a double and a single. Ben Sobocinski and Bill Perry each had three singles.


(Monday Afternoon)

Maine (23-23) Hartford (13-33)

Player AB R H BI Player AB R H BI

McGraw, lf 6 2 2 3 Stouffer, ss 5 2 1

Cather, cf 6 1 2 2 Cinelli, dh 4 0 0

Smith, 3b 6 2 2 2 Ricco, ph 1 0 0

Barrett, 1b 5 3 4 2 Sobocinski, 2b 5 1 0

Lugbauer, c 4 1 2 3 Perry, 3b 4 0 1

McAvoy, rf 3 3 2 3 Bowser, cf 4 0 0

Jackson, dh 2 0 1 0 Crowley, c 4 0 1

Hasenfus, dh 1 1 0 0 Hebert, 1b 2 0 0

Hackett, ss 5 1 2 0 Price, rf 4 0 0

Menendez, 2b 3 2 1 1 O’Connell, lf 3 0 0

Dorman, ph/lf 1 0 0 0

Totals 41 16 18 16 Totals 37 3 15 3

Maine 000 202 192 – 16

Hartford 100 100 100 – 3

LOB-Maine 5; Hartford 11; DP-Hackett-Menendez-Barrett, Hackett-Barrett-Smith, Smith-Menendez-Barrett; Coury-Stouffer-Hebert; 2B-Barrett, Jackson; Stouffer, Hebert; HR-McGraw (4), Barrett (6), Lugbauer (4), McAvoy (4); Stouffer (4); S-Jackson; Bowser; SB-McGraw (18), Cather (15); Stouffer (15)


Balsinde (W, 3-4) 8 15 3 3 2 1

Carroll 1 0 0 0 1 1

Hartford IP H R ER BB SO

Perry (L, 1-7) 5 1/3 7 4 4 1 3

Flaherty 1 2/3 3 3 3 2 1

Rogers 1/3 7 7 7 0 0

Coury 2/3 0 0 0 1 0

Casey 1 1 2 2 1 0

HBP- McAvoy (by Flaherty); WP- Flaherty; T- 3:11; ATT- 56

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