The University of Maine’s baseball team continued to find ways to win games during its three-game sweep of visiting UMass Lowell at Mahaney Diamond this weekend.
The Black Bears overcame a 6-3 deficit with two runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth for a 7-6 victory in Sunday’s series finale. They are now 15-3 in America East play, which represents the program’s best 18-game conference record since the 1993 team went 16-2 in its first 18 North Atlantic Conference games.
UMaine had also rallied for a 4-3, 11-inning win on Friday before building a 7-0 lead on Saturday and holding on for an 8-5 triumph.
UMaine is now 19-14 overall and has won nine in a row while UMass Lowell is 15-23 overall, and 7-11 in the conference.
Pivotal play: Freshman first baseman-designated hitter Jeremiah Jenkins’ two-run opposite field homer to left in the eighth inning pulled the Black Bears within 6-5 and gave them a big spark.
Jenkins delivered the winning run in the ninth by drawing a bases-loaded walk after Jordan Schulefand led off with a sharp single to left, Quinn McDaniel reached on a one-out infield throwing error, Joe Bramanti walked and Scout Knotts was hit by a pitch to tie it.
“Our team is resilient. We know we can come back to win games,” said Schulefand, who picked up the win in relief by retiring all six hitters he faced, three via strikeouts. Jenkins “has been coming up huge all year for us. That homer really changed the momentum.”
Jenkins and Quinn McDaniel had three hits each for UMaine while Cedric Rose had two singles for UMass Lowell and Brandon Fish had an RBI single and a sacrifice fly.
Big takeaway: UMaine was able to overcome two errors leading to four unearned runs on Sunday.
“We’re finding ways to win games,” said UMaine coach Nick Derba. “We didn’t play well at all today. We tried to lose the game. We gave them five of their six runs but they gave them right back to us.
“We realize we aren’t out of any game, and that’s a good thing to have.”
On Saturday, Bramanti’s 13th homer of the season, a three-run blast to left, and Jenkins’ fifth, a two-run shot to right, highlighted a six-run third-inning rally, and the Black Bears survived UMass Lowell’s five-run seventh inning to hang on for the win.
Caleb Leys pitched six innings of no-hit ball to earn the win, and Matt Pushard tossed two hitless innings to notch his fifth save after Noah Lewis surrendered the five seventh-inning runs.
Freshman lefty Leys struck out six and walked seven. Pushard struck out five and walked one in his two innings of work.
Bramanti had a double to go with his homer, and Jenkins had a single to accompany his homer.
Ryan Proto had a two-run single for the River Hawks.
On Friday, Ryan Turenne was the hero for the Black Bears in their 4-3 triumph as his two-out infield single brought in the tying run in the ninth, and his 11th-inning single delivered the winning run.
Proto’s triple and Fritz Genther’s squeeze bunt gave the River Hawks a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth but Jenkins’ two-out triple to center was followed by Turenne’s liner to first baseman Rose, who dove and got his glove on the ball only to have it drop out as he hit the ground.
Colin Fitzgerald pitched out of a bases loaded-one-out jam in the top of the 11th by getting two strikeouts and UMaine won it in the bottom of the 11th on a walk, two hit batsmen and Turenne’s ground ball single to right.
Turenne had three hits for the Black Bears, including a double, and Fitzgerald picked up the win with four innings of four-hit one-run relief. Trevor LaBonte allowed four hits and two runs over seven innings.
Proto, Gerry Siracusa and Rose had two hits each for UMass Lowell, and starter L.J. Keevan tossed seven innings of five-hit, two-run baseball.
What’s next? UMaine will play a non-league game at Merrimack on Wednesday at 3 before returning to conference play against Hartford at Mahaney Diamond on Friday at 4 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at noon. UMass Lowell’s next conference games will be against visiting Albany next weekend.