The top-seeded University of Maine baseball team will limp into the America East Tournament with four straight conference losses after being swept by a Hartford team that was out of the playoff picture on Thursday morning but earned the sixth and final seed with its three wins over the Black Bears at Fiondela Field in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Hartford beat the Black Bears 13-8 on Thursday and 11-9 on Friday before capping the series with a 7-2 triumph on Saturday.
It was the first time this season UMaine had been swept.
UMaine will share the league’s regular season title with Stony Brook, which took two of three from defending tournament champ the New Jersey Institute of Technology to finish with an identical 21-9 conference record.
It is UMaine’s first regular season title since 2013 and just its second since 2002.
Stony Brook is ineligible to play in the tournament due to a league bylaw that prohibits schools who are leaving the conference from participating in the league championships. Stony Brook is moving to the Colonial Athletic Association.
UMaine (27-20 overall), which will host the six-team, double-elimination tournament at Mahaney Diamond in Orono beginning Wednesday, will receive a first-round bye as will No. 2 seed Binghamton (15-15 in the conference, 19-28 overall).
Neither team will play on Wednesday.
UMaine will play on Thursday at 11 a.m. against the lower seeded winner in Wednesday’s first games pitting No. 4 UMass Lowell (15-15, 25-28) against No. 5 the University of Maryland Baltimore County (11-19, 22-30) at 11 and No. 3 NJIT (15-15, 23-28) vs. No. 6 Hartford (11-19, 13-35) at 2:30.
This is Hartford’s last season in America East as it will transition to Division III. If Hartford beats NJIT on Wednesday, it would play UMaine again on Thursday.
Binghamton will play the higher seeded winner on Thursday at 2:30 p.m.
UMaine, which had a 14-game winning streak that catapulted it to the top of the standings, is the only team in the tournament that is winless in its last four conference games. It lost the final game of its home series to Albany last Sunday.
“We’ve been the worst team in the league the last two weekends. If we don’t find our mojo the next three or four days, we’ll be finished on Friday,” said UMaine head coach Nick Derba.
“We didn’t do anything positive [against Hartford]. I’m speechless about how bad we were. Hats off to Hartford, they played their best baseball of the season and we played our worst,” he added.
He also blamed himself for the dismal performance.
“It falls on my shoulders, no doubt about it. I have to prepare them better. And we have to be better as a team.”
On Saturday, back-to-back two-out homers in the third inning by Donnie Cohoon — a two-run shot — and Derek Tenney erased a 2-0 UMaine lead. Tenney doubled in another run in the fifth before Daniel Burnett’s two-run triple highlighted a three-run eighth-inning rally that sewed up the win.
Four Hartford pitchers combined for a two-hitter with Joe Bramanti’s double and Scout Knotts’ single being the only hits the Black Bears could muster.
Tenney homered in every game against UMaine and he also had a double on Saturday.
On Friday, Tenney belted a grand slam in a five-run fifth-inning rally that gave the Hawks an 11-5 lead.
Tenney had two singles to go with his grand slam and drove in four runs and Tremayne Cobb Jr. also knocked in four with a three-run homer and a single. Devin Kellogg homered and doubled and drove in two. Cohoon singled twice.
Quinn McDaniel had a pair of homers and a double and knocked in five for UMaine. Jordan Schulefand homered and also had three singles and Jeff Mejia homered and doubled.
UMaine starter Caleb Leys allowed nine hits and eight runs in 4 ⅓ innings.
On Thursday, UMaine had rallied from a 6-0 deficit to within 6-5 with five runs in the top of the sixth behind Jake Marquez’s two-run single and Ryan Turenne’s two-run double but Hartford promptly answered with six in the bottom of the sixth thanks to Ben Mayock’s three-run homer and Noah Rivera’s two-run shot.
Tenney had a homer and a single and drove in three; Mayock and Rivera each had a single to go with their homers and combined to knock in seven; Burnett and Cobb Jr. singled twice each and Kellogg homered.
Connor Goodman produced a homer and two singles for UMaine, Bramanti homered and Marquez singled twice.
UMaine starting pitcher Trevor LaBonte and reliever Colin Fitzgerald combined to pitch the first six innings and surrendered 12 hits and 12 earned runs.