ORONO – Mahaney Diamond is still 70 percent covered in ice and snow, but that hasn’t kept the University of Maine baseball team from getting in some productive practices of late.
Coach Steve Trimper’s Black Bears have spent two weeks working out in Mahaney Dome and on the AstroTurf of Morse Field in preparation for this weekend’s series against Wagner at Staten Island, N.Y.
“Everybody’s excited to get outside, especially being up here where the snow’s still plentiful,” said junior outfielder Kevin McAvoy of Brewer. “Everybody wants to get outside and play baseball.”
UMaine (5-11) is now slated to play seven-inning doubleheaders Saturday (11 a.m.) and Sunday (noon). The original schedule was changed because of rain forecast for Friday.
It will be the Bears’ first action since a March 16 loss to Monmouth at Annapolis, Md.
“We had a lot of things that we had to work on,” said junior center fielder Billy Cather. “I think it was good to get a couple of lifts [weightlifting sessions] in and it also helped get us back into a routine – rather than being on the road all the time – and some rest, too, which is needed.”
The Bears have had extra time to practice after last weekend’s series at New York Tech was canceled because of wet field conditions.
“It was kind of a disappointment that everything got canceled, but we got a lot of work done and I think we’re raring to go for this weekend,” said sophomore catcher and first baseman Myckie Lugbauer.
UMaine concentrated on fundamentals and some specific game situations such as bunts and hit-and-runs.
“It was things that cost us ballgames in Florida,” Trimper said. “It’s things that we didn’t execute and we had to come in and work on those and we did a great job.”
While most of the hitting work was done in the dome and on the ProBatter simulator, Trimper and his staff have made sure to get the team outside regularly.
With Morse Field nearly clear of snow, the Bears are able to take fly balls and ground balls while also doing their workouts in the kind of weather they’re likely to encounter on game days.
“We’ve practiced five days now on the turf football field,” Trimper said. “We’re going to be playing in 40-, 50-degree weather, so we’ve got to throw in that. We stretch in this weather, get our muscles used to it.”
While the Bears can bundle up for the chilly temperatures, there is nothing they can do to expedite the drying of their home field, Mahaney Diamond. While the frost appears to be out of the ground, there are four inches of ice covering much of the grass.
The water drainage also has been slower than normal. Last fall, Trimper and his players resurfaced the warning track with stone dust and edged the grass along the track.
He said the work apparently has caused some of the water to drain back onto the field instead of away from it.
With Mahaney Diamond certain not to be in playing shape for UMaine’s scheduled April 4 home opener against New York Tech, Trimper has already contacted Husson College athletic director Gabby Price to inquire about using Alfond Diamond at the John Winkin Baseball Complex in Bangor.
That facility is not ready for play, but is expected to be usable in the near future.
If that doesn’t work out, UMaine likely will travel to New York Tech, which means more travel, expenses and missed class time.
Help is expected to be on the way for 2009, when Mahaney Diamond is scheduled to be converted to artificial turf, provided the money can be raised.
“Turf is the most important thing for this program,” Trimper said, “more important than scholarships and budgets and 96 mph pitchers; for recruiting purposes, for everything we do.”
Maine player of year is Choice
Adam Choice of Colby College in Waterville has been chosen as the Maine State Player of the Year by the Maine Men’s Basketball Coaches and Writers Association.
The sophomore forward from Newport, R.I., led the Mules in scoring (18.0 points per game), rebounding (7.8 rpg) and blocked shots (1.4 bpg) while averaging 1.4 steals. Choice also shot 79 percent from the foul line.
He was an All-New England Small College Athletic Association second-team pick.
Other MMBCWA winners included rookie of the year Andrew Duncanson of Thomas College in Waterville and coach of the year Tim Gilbride of Bowdoin College in Brunswick.