All systems are go for the University of Maine baseball team’s home-opening series against Albany this weekend.
UMaine and Albany are scheduled to play a noon doubleheader Saturday and a 1 p.m. single game on Easter Sunday.
UMaine head coach Nick Derba said Eric Stoup, the athletic grounds and arena manager, has made sure the snow has been cleared off Mahaney Diamond and the Black Bears practiced there on Monday.
“The field is playable,” said Derba. “There’s a minor issue along one of the foul lines but we played in worse conditions last weekend at Hartford.”
The Black Bears (5-19, 1-2 AE) salvaged the third game of the series at Hartford, winning 6-1 in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader after dropping the opener 1-0 and a 5-3 decision on Friday.
The win snapped a 10-game losing streak. Nine of UMaine’s 19 losses have been by two runs or fewer.
Senior right-hander Justin Courtney from Bangor won’t pitch for a third straight weekend due to a forearm strain. A magnetic resonance imaging test detected the strain.
“If this was the America East tournament, he would pitch,” said Derba. “But we want to bring him along slowly. We want to have him for the last seven weeks not just for one.
Courtney has been throwing on the side and Derba said he has felt pretty good. Derba hopes to have him available, albeit on a pitch count, for the April 7-8 series in Orono against Stony Brook.
Courtney, who hasn’t pitched since March 9, is 1-1 with a 2.57 earned run average. He has given up just 14 hits in 21 innings with 26 strikeouts and eight walks. Opposing hitters are batting .179 against him.
The freshman All-American and an All-America East second-team and all-rookie team pick in 2015, was 4-5 with a team-leading 3.92 ERA last season.
Derba said UMaine received quality pitching performances from Zach Winn, Nick Silva and John Arel at Hartford.
Winn, a converted reliever, threw five innings of three-hit, one-run ball with three walks and four strikeouts before the bullpen imploded in the 5-3 loss.
Silva tossed 7 2/3 innings of five-hit, one-run ball (3 K, 2 BB) in the 1-0 loss and Arel came on in relief to pitch six innings of scoreless four-hit ball (4 K, 2 BB) in the 6-1 victory and picked up the win.
The Black Bears were bolstered by the return of catcher-designated hitter Chris Bec, a 2017 All-America East second-team selection (.340, 20 doubles).
Bec, who missed 11 games due to a medical condition, went 6-for-12 at Hartford with a homer and two doubles.
“He’s the best offensive player in the league, in my opinion,” said Derba. “Having him back in the lineup makes us better and deeper. This was the first time in four weekends we had our entire starting lineup available.”
Derba said he isn’t concerned about their offense now that everyone is healthy.
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