The University of Maine baseball team lost two of three games at UMass Lowell this past weekend but Friday night’s 5-4 victory over the River Hawks helped the Black Bears sew up the top seed for the six-team, double-elimination America East Tournament on May 25-28 at UMaine’s Mahaney Diamond in Orono.
UMass Lowell won Saturday’s game 5-2 to snap UMaine’s 14-game winning streak and dealt UMaine a 5-4 setback in 10 innings on Sunday.
It was the first time since March 26-27 vs. Stony Brook that the Black Bears had lost back-to-back games.
UMaine is now 24-16 overall and 19-5 in America East while UMass Lowell improved to 21-15 and 11-13.
UMaine and the second seed will receive a first-round bye for the tournament.
“That’s what we set out to do,” said UMaine head coach Nick Derba who added that the next step is to bounce back from the two losses and start putting some wins together down the stretch.
“Lowell is a good team. We missed some opportunities and didn’t execute as well as we needed to. Tip your cap to Lowell. They played near perfect baseball and we didn’t,” said Derba, who added that his bullpen was the bright spot, allowing just three runs and nine hits over 12 ⅔ innings.
On Friday, UMaine broke a 3-3 tie with two runs in the fifth inning and relievers Colin Fitzgerald and Matt Pushard shut out the River Hawks over the final four innings after the hosts had pushed across a run in the bottom of the fifth.
Jordan Schulefand doubled to open the fifth for UMaine, Jeff Mejia sacrificed him to third and Quinn McDaniel delivered him with a sacrifice fly. Joe Bramanti was hit by a pitch and eventually scored on an infield error.
Trevor LaBonte went five innings to pick up the win, allowing seven hits and four runs. Fitzgerald threw three innings of one-hit ball before Pushard notched his eighth save with a hitless ninth.
Schulefand had a single to go with his double, Scout Knotts doubled and Jake Marquez had a run-scoring base hit.
Fritz Genthner hit a two-run homer for UMass Lowell, Brandon Fish doubled and singled and Robert Gallagher singled twice.
On Saturday, Joshua Becker and Ryan Towle combined on a seven-hitter and held the league’s best-hitting team to its lowest run total since March 27 when the Black Bears were beaten by Stony Brook 8-2.
Becker allowed both runs and all seven hits over eight innings before Towle came on and struck out the side in the ninth.
Jacob Humphrey’s two-run single in the sixth inning gave the River Hawks a pair of valuable insurance runs.
Fish doubled and singled for UML, Humphrey singled twice and Gerry Siracusa had a run-scoring triple.
McDaniel belted a solo homer and also had a single for UMaine and Connor Goodman had a pair of singles and an RBI.
Caleb Leys allowed three runs over five innings and took the loss. Noah Lewis gave up two runs in three innings of relief.
On Sunday, Alex Luccini doubled and scored on Siracusa’s one-out single off Schulefand in the eighth inning to give UMass Lowell its series-clinching win over UMaine.
Quinn McDaniel’s solo homer with two outs in the ninth inning had forced extra innings.
Fish had a double and two singles for UMass Lowell and Luccini had a single to go with his double.
Siracusa drove in a pair of runs.
Bramanti and Jeremiah Jenkins each had a double and single and an RBI for UMaine.
UMaine has six conference games remaining with three at home against Albany next Friday (4 p.m.), Saturday (1) and Sunday (noon) before concluding the regular season with three at Hartford the following weekend.
UMass Lowell visits Hartford for three next weekend.