Connor Goodman (31) celebrates with his University of Maine teammates after hitting the game-winning single in the seventh inning in Orono against Albany in May 2021. Credit: Tyler Neville / UMaine Athletics

University of Maine head baseball coach Nick Derba knows he isn’t going to be able to replace Nick Sinacola and Alex McKenney at the top of his pitching rotation.

America East Pitcher of the Year Sinacola became the first pitcher in UMaine baseball history to earn first team All-American honors before he was drafted in the seventh round and signed with the San Francisco Giants.

Former Hampden Academy standout McKenney became a top-notch No. 2 man in the rotation and signed a free agent contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.

But with the exception of first team All-America East first team selection Sean Lawlor, the rest of the lineup returns intact and fifth-year head coach Nick Derba predicts will have more offensive success as the Black Bears open the season on friday at Louisiana State University, which was picked as a top 10 team in the country in three preseason polls.

“We should score more runs. We should be more consistent because we’re more experienced,” Derba said. “Last year, we were feast or famine because of the strikeouts. We’d score 14 runs one game and none the next.”

The Black Bears hit .270 as a team last season, second best in the conference behind Stony Brook.

Lawlor led the team in batting average (.350), homers (7) and runs-batted in (37).

“We aren’t going to be the kind of team that can win a 1-0 game but we will be able to win a 4-3 game and, at the end of the day, we’re just trying to win baseball games,” Derba said.

UMaine averaged 5.8 runs per game but struck out an average of 7.4 times per outing.

Graduate student Joe Bramanti is a former second team All-America East selection who returns at first base. Bramanti had a solid 2021 campaign as he hit .293 with six homers and 28 runs batted in.

Eliot sophomore Quinn McDaniel (.268-6-20) is back at second, sophomore Jake Marquez (.147-1-19) is back at shortstop and the third baseman is junior Connor Goodman (.287-0-18).

Marquez had a stellar season defensively but a shoulder ailment hampered his hitting, Derba said.

Senior Jeff Mejia (.282-1-18) will be in left field, sophomore Jake Rainess (.260-4-17) will be in center and senior Scout Knotts (.295-4-21) will return in right.

Derba said Knotts is coming off shoulder surgery so University of Richmond transfer Jordan Schulefand could start the season in right field. Schulefand and Knotts will also share the designated hitter duties.

Schulefand hit. 321 for the Spiders last spring with two homers and 11 RBIs.

In addition, Schulefand is going to be one of the top three starters in the pitching rotation.

He appeared in nine games last season for Richmond, eight in relief, and was 4-1 with a 4.19 earned-run average.

“I brought him in to take Lawlor’s spot, offensively. He said he wanted the opportunity to be a starting pitcher and he won the job,” Derba said.

Schulefand will be the DH when he pitches.

Sharing the catching duties will be senior Ryan Turenne (.308-5-19) and Falmouth junior Colby Emmertz (.200-1-5).

University of California-Davis transfer Brett Erwin will take the mound for the opener at LSU, according to Derba.

Erwin was 1-4 with a 5.06 ERA for the Aggies but they played a challenging schedule including the likes of Washington State, Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State.

Erwin isn’t overpowering but has good off-speed deliveries to keep hitters off balance, according to Derba. He struggled with his control last spring, walking 28 in 58 2/3 innings and unleashing 11 wild pitches and hitting seven batters.

South Portland sophomore Noah Lewis (4-6, 5.16 ERA) was chosen to the America East All-Rookie team and has made some strides, according to Derba.

Freshmen Colin Fitzgerald and Caleb Leys have potential as starters, as does former Oxford Hills of South Paris sophomore Colton Carson, whose freshman season was marred by COVID-19.

Derba also has high hopes for sophomore Tyler Nielsen (2-2, 4.40).

Graduate student Matt Pushard (3.78 ERA, team-high 3 saves) from Brewer will be the closer, and University of Maryland transfer Trevor LaBonte from York and junior Leif Bigelow (9.00 ERA in 6 appearances) will also be counted upon in the bullpen, Derba said.

LaBonte appeared in just one game for the Terps last season.

UMaine will be hosting the six-team, double-elimination America East Tournament this season.