ORONO — The University of Maine’s baseball team came another step closer to sewing up the top seed for the America East Tournament that it will host on May 26-29. It also ran its winning streak to 13 games with a dramatic 9-8 victory over Hartford on Sunday afternoon at Mahaney Diamond.
UMaine currently owns the nation’s second-longest winning streak behind Columbia University’s 19.
The 13 wins in a row is the longest for a UMaine team since the 2012 team won 13 straight.
UMaine had squeaked out a 7-5 win over Hartford on Friday and then routed the Hawks 15-2 on Saturday.
UMaine is now 23-14 overall and 18-3 in the conference while Hartford, in its last year in America East before continuing its transition to NCAA Division III, is 6-31 and 5-16.
The teams with the top two conference records will earn the top two seeds and first-round byes for the six-team double elimination tournament and the closest challengers are Binghamton and NJIT, who are both 11-10. And UMaine owns the tiebreaker against both because it won the season series.
Pivotal play: UMaine sophomore shortstop Jake Marquez greeted reliever Will Nowak by hitting his first pitch through the shortstop hole to deliver Scoutt Knotts with what proved to be the winning run with one out in the eighth inning. Knotts had reached on an infield single and moved to second when Jeremiah Jenkins poked a single into left.
“My main thing this year is I’m trying to do damage early in the count. Pitchers are trying to get an advantage (with a first-pitch strike) so I haven’t been waiting around. I hit the first good pitch I see. He threw me a fastball on the inner half of the plate. It felt good,” said Marquez.
Two-run homers in consecutive innings, the seventh and eighth, by sophomore right fielder Daniel Burnett had helped the Hawks overcome an 8-3 deficit to tie it.
Graduate student transfer (Richmond) Jordan Schulefand came on in relief of Noah Lewis for UMaine to get the final two outs in Hartford’s five-run eighth and then struck out UConn transfer Ben Maycock, who was 3-for-3 including a two-run double, to get the final out in the ninth.
“(Maycock) swung and missed at an elevated fastball on the 1-1 pitch so I knew I could go back to it,” said Schulefand, who threw another high fastball that Maycock swung and missed for the final out.
Freshman Jenkins homered and tripled to go with his single for UMaine.
“It is my mom’s birthday and she wanted me to hit a home run for her,” grinned Jenkins who gave Kawanna Jenkins exactly what she wanted.
Schulefand, Ryan Turenne and Knotts each had two hits for UMaine with one of Turenne’s hits being a double. UMaine had eight extra-base hits.
Burnett and Maycock had three hits each for Hartford and one of Maycock’s hits was a double. Tremayne Cobb Jr., Kevin Koziol and Noah Rivera had two hits each.
Big takeaway: UMaine continues to get contributions from everyone to extend its winning streak and Jenkins has continued to be an impactful freshman.
On Saturday, UMaine erupted for seven first-inning runs en route to the win.
Marquez’s two-run homer, Knotts’ two-run single and RBI doubles by Jenkins and Connor Goodman were the key hits in the rally.
Schulefand went 5-for-6 with a double while Knotts had three hits and three RBIs and Jenkins, Quinn McDaniel and Goodman had two hits apiece.
Cobb Jr. had three hits including a homer and Derek Tenney had a pair of hits for Hartford as did Maycock.
On Friday, Jenkins’ two-out opposite-field single in a two-run eighth-inning rally broke a 5-5 tie.
Matt Pushard came on in the ninth to notch his seventh save for the Black Bears.
McDaniel had three hits including a triple and Jeff Mejia had a pair of hits as did Jenkins and Schulefand. Mejia had a triple among his two hits.
Burnett doubled and singled for Hartford and Tenney singled twice.
What’s next: UMaine travels to play a three-game set at UMass Lowell next Friday, Saturday and Sunday and Hartford goes to Albany for three after a Tuesday non-conference game against Central Connecticut State.