Joe Bramanti (center) of the University of Maine baseball team dons the celebratory hockey helmet after hitting a home run during a 2021 America East tournament game against Stony Brook. Despite a low batting average, Bramanti is off to a strong start in the 2022 season with six home runs and 23 runs batted in. Credit: Tyler Neville / UMaine Athletics

Batting averages can be a misleading statistic.

University of Maine graduate student/first baseman Joe Bramanti is proof.

Bramanti is hitting an underwhelming .225 through UMaine’s first 17 games with 16 hits in 71 at-bats. But six of those hits have been home runs, and he has driven in 23 runs.

The former All-America East second team selection leads the team in homers and RBIs, and has already tied his single-season high for homers.

Bramanti, who is from North Andover, Massachusetts, was one of several hitting stars for UMaine against Binghamton, in which the Black Bears swept the three-game road series. Bramanti went just 3-for-14 in the series but hit two homers and drove in eight runs for UMaine, which is now 6-11.

The team’s sweep of Binghamton in its first three conference games marks the first time UMaine has won its first three America East games since it won seven in a row in 2012. Binghamton swept UMaine in Orono a year ago.

“Joe has been getting his hits when they matter,” said UMaine head coach Nick Derba, whose team will play its home openers this weekend against Stony Brook on Friday at 4 p.m, Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at noon at Mahaney Diamond.

“He has also had productive outs,” added Derba, referring to Bramanti’s ability to move runners along or even drive them home from third with ground balls or fly balls.

Bramanti said one of his goals this season was to become a better situational hitter.

“It’s completely OK to give myself up with a ground ball or a fly ball to get a runner home from third and help the team,” said Bramanti.

Another player with a strong performance in the Binghamton series was Eliot native Quinn McDaniel, who went 7-for-15 with three homers, a double and six RBIs.

Second baseman McDaniel, who hit .268 while starting in 41 of 44 games as a freshman last season, is now hitting .310 this season and leads the team in total bases (42), hits (22), doubles (6) and slugging percentage (.592). He has four homers and 14 RBIs.

“I’m a lot better than I was last year,” said McDaniel, a former Marshwood High School standout. “I feel a lot better at the plate confidence-wise and strength-wise. I’m seeing the ball better. I have more experience so I know what a pitcher is going to throw in a certain count.”

McDaniel’s success comes as no surprise to Derba.

“We expected Quinn to be a pretty key player here,” said Derba. “He has been swinging at [more] strikes this year.”

Derba said that swinging at strikes is a big step for young hitters, who can have a tendency to chase pitches outside the strike zone.

UMaine had 20 extra-base hits among its 41 hits and scored 37 runs.

Derba said he knew he had a good hitting team and it was nice to see his Black Bears string together consistently good at-bats.

But now they turn their attention to Stony Brook, which swept UMass Lowell in its league-opening series 6-4, 7-6 (10 innings) and 10-9 in 10 innings.

The defending regular season champ Stony Brook is 7-12.

“They’re always good. They’ve been the league’s strongest representative the past 10-12 years,” said Derba.

Stony Brook was 31-18 overall and a record-setting 25-10 in conference play in 2021.

The teams met in the AE tourney with UMaine winning the opener 4-2 and Stony Brook eliminating UMaine later 15-9.

However, NJIT won the AE tournament.

Stony Brook can’t play in the tournament this year because an America East bylaw forbids a team that is leaving the conference from playing in the league championships. Stony Brook is going to the Colonial Athletic Association next season.

UMaine is led at the plate by Jeff Mejia (350-0 homers-7 RBIs), McDaniel, reigning AE Rookie of the Week Jeremiah Jenkins (.292-1-8) and Bramanti.

Stony Brook, the preseason favorite in the AE poll, features Stanton Leuthner (.304-2-11), Brett Paulsen (.304-1-6), Evan Giordano (.296-4-18) and Shane Paradine (.282-0-8).

Trevor LaBonte (1-2, 4.91 earned-run average), Caleb Leys (1-0, 4.37) and Brett Erwin (0-2, 3.75) are UMaine’s likely starting pitchers while Ben Fero (1-1, 2.21) and Brandon Lashley (0-1, 5.09) are Stony Brook’s probables with the third starter up in the air.