Joe Bramanti (center) of the University of Maine baseball team dons the celebratory hockey helmet after hitting a home run during a May 2021 game against Stony Brook at the America East tournament in Stony Brook, New York. Credit: Tyler Neville / UMaine Athletics

For the first time since 2018, the University of Maine’s baseball team will host the six-team, double-elimination America East Tournament at Mahaney Diamond beginning on May 25.

“We’re excited about having it back here,” UMaine head coach Nick Derba said.

“Having the opportunity to win the tournament on your home field is always exciting but, on the flip side, you have to make sure you make the tournament,” said Derba, noting that can add some pressure on the team.

UMaine was picked to finish fifth out of eight teams this season in the preseason coaches poll. The top four teams in the preseason poll were Stony Brook (46), NJIT (40), Binghamton (37) and Albany (34). Following Maine (27) were UMass Lowell (18), UMBC (12) and Hartford (10).

Stony Brook cannot participate in the tournament, as the school announced recently that it was leaving the league for the Colonial Athletic Association and an America East bylaw prohibits teams from playing in the league championships if they are departing.

Five different schools have won the last five tournaments: Binghamton in 2016, University of Maryland Baltimore County in 2017, Hartford in 2018, Stony Brook in 2019 and the New Jersey Institute of Technology last season.

Derba, who is in his eighth season with the program first as an assistant and now the head coach, said the community support, the team sponsors and the facilities make it a top-notch event.

“I know people don’t love coming all the way up here but once they’re here, they realize it’s a good place to have it. We got a lot of great feedback about how well run it was,” Derba said.

The league will play three nine-inning games on Friday, Saturday and Sundays this season rather than a pair of doubleaders over two days with a seven and a nine-inning game each day, Derba said.

The Black Bears will open the season with a three-game series against No. 7 Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge from Feb. 18 to 20.

Their first America East series will be in Binghamton from March 18 to 20 and they will open at home the following weekend with a three-game set against Stony Brook.

UMaine went 22-22 a year ago and was 16-17 in conference play during the regular season. The Black Bears went 1-2 in the tournament.