Coach Steve Trimper isn’t thrilled with the 5-11 record his University of Maine baseball team brought back to Orono after its annual spring swing to Nevada, Florida and Maryland.
But the Black Bears’ boss is quite pleased, overall, about the way his ballclub played.
“I guess I’m perturbed that we didn’t get those one-run wins, but we played great baseball,” Trimper said Monday. “If you look at the record, you might say, what’s going on, but we were so darned close.”
UMaine, which was blown out three times in 12 games, went 2-5 in games decided by two runs or less. The Bears were 0-4 in extra-inning games.
UMaine’s primary mission on the trip was to begin formulating a pitching rotation.
The staff has begun to take shape behind the efforts of sophomore transfer Joe Miller (2-1, 3.21 ERA) and freshmen Matt Jebb (1-0, 4.19) and Kevin Scanlan (0-1, 4.91), who is a lefthander. Frosh Kyle Benoit (0-0, 5.40) and Jon Balentina (0-1, 0.00) also showed promise in limited action.
“We’re pitching pretty decently with five or six guys that are rising to the top,” Trimper said.
The Bears also received contributions from Alejandro Balsinde (1-3, 6.05), Will Carroll of Boothbay (0-3, 7.36), Jim Cox of Bangor (0-0. 7.56), Ryan Forrest (0-0, 7.94), Justin Latta (1-1, 10.50) and Joel Thorney (0-1, 12.34).
UMaine’s statistics aren’t impressive, with opponents batting .320 against the Bears, averaging 7.6 runs per game. The team ERA is a puffy 6.03.
“We do have to cut down on walks,” Trimper said of a staff that has walked 79 in 134 1/3 innings. “They have to mature and I’m excited to see these guys go through it. They’re very talented and willing to learn.”
The Bears may get a boost with the return of senior lefthander Nolan Boike, who recently completed his stint with the hockey team.
The defense also appears to be shaping up. The Bears have committed 29 errors in 16 games (1.8 per game) while turning 15 double plays.
Newcomers in the mix include sophomore shortstop Tony Patane and freshman third basemen Jarrett Lukas of Old Town and Kevin Mager. Trimper pointed out the continued improvement of second baseman Danny Menendez, along with the dependability of Patane and the play of Lukas, who had worked out mostly at second base during preseason.
At the plate, UMaine averaged a solid 6.5 runs per outing while batting .297 as a team.
Senior Curt Smith leads the way with a .439 average to go with five home runs, 12 RBIs and 22 runs scored. Sophomore Myckie Lugbauer checks in at .406 (2 HRs, team-high 15 RBIs), while junior outfielders Kevin McAvoy of Brewer (.340, 1HR, 10 RBIs) and Billy Cather (.313, 1 HR, 7 RBIs), along with Patane (.300, 1 HR, 7 RBIs) have been among the top producers.
“We’re going to need to get offensive production out of the bottom part of our lineup. It’s something we lacked toward the end of the trip,” said Trimper, who may lean toward more “small ball” tactics to move runners along.
Trimper is confident UMaine’s challenging schedule will eventually pay dividends.
“For us it’s about playing good competition, and we’re coming back from this trip with lot of positives, a lot more positives than negatives,” he said.
UMaine returns to action Friday to open a four-game, nonleague series at New York Tech.
In the meantime, the Bears need to get in some quality practice time.
“This is a very important three days for us,” Trimper said. “Although we were playing every day, we had very little time to practice and work some kinks out.”
UM track kicks off season
The UMaine men’s and women’s track teams opened their outdoor campaign at the Northridge Invitational at the University of California-Northridge Saturday.
The Black Bears sent three competitors from the men’s team and four from the women’s.
Max Ludwig and Skip Edwards each took seventh place in their events on the men’s side. Ludwig clocked a 15.13 in the 100-meter hurdles while Edwards posted a 49.38 in the 400. Edwards later added a ninth-place effort in the 200 (22.23) while Matt Holman was ninth in the 400 hurdles and 20th in the 400 run.
On the women’s side, Vanessa Letourneau captured fourth in the 800 in 2:19.80 while Stephanie Jette was fifth in 2:20.35. Vicki Tolton took sixth in the 400 (56.88) while Allyson Howatt was seventh in the 100 (12.30).
UMAINE BASEBALL STATS
Overall: 5-11; away: 4-6; neutral: 1-5
Average: .297/.320; runs: 104/122; hits: 174/175; home runs: 15/8; RBIs: 90/105
ERA: 6.03/5.58; innings: 134 1/3/142; earned runs: 90/88; walks: 79/47; strikeouts: 92/115