FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Greg Norton has a chance to make history today when he takes the mound for the University of Maine.
The senior righthander from South Portland gets the start in the 3:05 losers’ bracket game in the America East Baseball Championship at Farmingdale State College.
Norton, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder, is one victory away from joining UMaine greats Bill Swift and Mike D’Andrea as the winningest pitchers in school history with 27. He goes into the contest with a 26-14 career record.
Perhaps there is no one better to help the Bears keep their season going.
“He’s got a tremendous amount of postseason experience and he knows what he has to get done right now,” said UMaine coach Steve Trimper.
Norton, who sat out last season after shoulder surgery, has returned to anchor the starting staff. He also has been a steady playoff performer.
The Bears’ tri-captain is 1-2 with a 3.47 earned run average in four postseason appearances, including three starts. He hasn’t pitched in the playoffs since a 2005 loss to Mississippi in the NCAA Regionals.
Norton is fourth on UMaine’s career innings pitched list with 291 and is seventh all-time with 210 strikeouts.
“He wants the ball,” Trimper said. “He’s a fifth-year senior and this is a big day for him. I fully expect him to go out there and pitch great.”
Working against history
UMaine faces a difficult challenge in trying to overcome Thursday’s first-round loss and win the America East tournament.
In the previous 15 seasons of postseason play, starting with the ECAC format in 1991, through the North Atlantic Conference era and through last season, only once has a team lost its first game and wound up as champion.
UMaine accomplished the feat in 2002, playing at Mahaney Diamond in Orono. The top-seeded Bears lost to Stony Brook 16-4 in the opener, then rebounded with four consecutive wins to claim the title.
Bears struggle vs. Albany, SBU
UMaine hasn’t fared well this season against its potential foes in today’s America East elimination game.
The Bears were 0-4 in their first conference series at Stony Brook, while they managed only one victory in four games at Albany.
The Seawolves and Great Danes played Thursday night.
The Black Bears seemed to have their share of problems with Farmingdale State’s brand-new FieldTurf surface during Thursday’s tourney opener.
Curt Smith and Brian Hackett each failed to handle bouncing balls in the contest, while the outfielders found themselves having to track down balls at the fence that got into the gaps.
UMaine recently played a four-game series on artificial turf at Hartford, but the ball seemed to roll more slowly and bounce less on the Hawks’ A-Turf.
“It’s very quick turf,” said center fielder Billy Cather. “We weren’t really used to that. But now we’re used to it and the next couple games we’re really going to catch fire here, I hope.”
Barrett still chasing Sweeney
Joel Barrett continues to chase Mark Sweeney for UMaine’s career doubles record.
The senior first baseman from Brewer stroked another two-bagger in Thursday’s loss to Binghamton, leaving him with 62 doubles, four shy of the mark held by the player now with the San Francisco Giants.
Barrett is now tied for second place with 20 doubles this season, second only to Sweeney’s 22 in 1989.