University of Maine baseball coach Steve Trimper gave his team the day off Monday.
So what did 17 team members do for three hours Monday afternoon? They worked out on their own.
“They’re a fun bunch, very motivated,” Trimper said. “I wanted them to take it easy, but 17 of them went over to the field and did a captain’s workout.”
While Trimper remains upbeat about his ballclub, the Black Bears clearly have plenty of work to do.
UMaine, which also was scheduled for an off day Tuesday, is set to take on fifth-ranked Miami tonight at 7 in Coral Gables, Fla. The Bears are 5-7 this season, having lost seven of their eight games in Florida.
“We’re playing very good baseball,” Trimper said. “I think our strong point’s offense, and our defense in the infield has been outstanding.”
The Bears will utilize several different pitchers against the Hurricanes while trying to get their starting rotation in order heading into a three-day round robin at Navy starting Friday in Annapolis, Md.
Catcher and first baseman Myckie Lugbauer has set the tone with the bat. The sophomore is hitting a team-leading .468 with two home runs and 14 RBIs. His 22 hits and six doubles lead the squad.
Lugbauer is batting .500 (11-for-22) with runners in scoring position, while Joey Martin of Portland is 5-for-9 (.556). Lugbauer also is 10-for-15 in two-out situations.
Senior first baseman and outfielder Curt Smith also has been productive, batting .429 (4 HRs, 10 RBIs, 3 stolen bases). Sophomore outfielder Kevin McAvoy of Brewer (.400, 1 HR, 10 RBIs), sophomore shortstop Tony Patane (.314, 1 HR, 4 RBIs) and junior center fielder Billy Cather (.306, 1 HR, 6 RBIs) also have hit well.
While the Bears are averaging 2.2 errors per contest, Trimper is encouraged by the play of newcomers Patane at shortstop and Jarrett Lukas of Old Town and Kevin Mager at third base.
“Patane at shortstop is outstanding and Lukas has really stepped up and played calmly, played a little bit older,” Trimper said.
As expected, there has been some inconsistency on a largely untested pitching staff. The Bears have a 6.68 team earned run average, with opponents batting .323 against them.
The early candidate to become UMaine’s ace is sophomore righthander Joe Miller. The transfer from High Point University in North Carolina is 2-0 with an impressive 2.25 ERA.
Opponents are hitting only .167 against Miller, who gave up four earned runs and six hits in an eight-inning stint in Saturday’s 8-6 victory over Ohio State at Lantana, Fla.
“Miller has been outstanding,” Trimper said. “Pitching-wise, I think there’s about four guys that have really proven themselves.”
Included in that group is freshman lefty Kevin Scanlan (0-1, 7.15 ERA), who four-hit Air Force through 7 1/3 innings Saturday but walked seven.
“Scanlan’s been interesting,” Trimper said. “He hasn’t pitched great, but he’s kept us in ballgames.”
Junior Alejandro Balsinde (1-1, 5.62) and freshman Matt Jebb (1-0, 4.76) have been respectable, as has freshman Jim Cox of Bangor (0-0, 6.75).
Senior Joel Thorney (0-1, 12.66) has struggled, while freshmen Jon Balentina and Kyle Benoit just saw their first action while coming off minor injuries. Benoit touched 96 mph on one fastball that resulted in a strikeout against Ohio State.
UMaine pitchers have issued 57 walks, with only 54 strikeouts, in 97 innings.
Trimper is confident the team has the potential to be very successful.
“The big thing for us, we’ve just got to execute baseball plays,” he said. “Our baseball sense is still developing.”