ORONO, Maine — After posting a pair of comfortable victories in its first two games of its America East series against Albany on Friday and Saturday, the University of Maine’s baseball team found itself three outs away from its first America East loss on Sunday afternoon.
But a throwing error in the ninth inning enabled the Black Bears to tie it 3-3, and they won it in the 10th when Jake Rainess doubled to open the inning and Quinn McDaniel followed by pulling a line drive double down the left field line.
McDaniel’s game-winner was UMaine’s first hit with a runner in scoring position, as the Black Bears had gone 0-for-14 up until that point.
Rainess and McDaniel, the top two hitters in the order, had gone a combined 0-for-9 until the 10th.
“It’s hard to win when two of your three best players don’t get any knocks, but they came through at the end,” said UMaine coach Nick Derba. The Black Bears are off to a 9-0 start in conference play, which is the program’s best start since the 1991 season when it won its first 13 North Atlantic Conference games.
UMaine is now 15-11 overall and has won eight straight and 12 of its last 13. Albany is 3-20-1 overall after losing its 12th straight. The Great Danes are 0-9 in the conference.
“It was a long day,” said McDaniel who got his game-winning hit off reliever Owen Birkman. “But you have to keep going up to the plate with the same approach. You’ve got to trust it.”
“Quinn said to me before I went up to bat ‘Let’s double up to win it,” said Rainess, who hit an opposite-field double over right fielder Ryan Ferrimi’s head. “He threw me a slider low and away. I was looking for a breaking ball all day. I let the bat do the work.”
Jeremiah Jenkins staked UMaine to a 1-0 lead with his 11th homer of the season in the first.
Carson Dunkel walloped a two-run blast in the third, his second of the year, to give Albany its first lead of the weekend but UMaine tied it in the fifth with an unearned run on Jake Marquez’s sacrifice fly.
Freshman shortstop Justin Hurd restored Albany’s one-run lead with a one-out RBI double in the seventh. After reliever Andrew Chevarie came on for starter Noah Lewis and walked the only two men he faced to load the bases, Oxford’s Colton Carson came on and struck out the next two hitters.
“Colton has some nasty stuff,” Rainess said.
“We had a chance late to extend the lead late and we didn’t cash in,” said Albany coach Jon Mueller.
Marquez led off the ninth by dropping a line drive single into center. Colin Plante reached on a base hit when shortstop Hurd’s throw to first was late after he was forced to throw to first when second baseman Will Feil didn’t get over in time to cover second for a potential forceout.
Myles Sargent bounced a potential double play grounder to Hurd, but after Hurd stepped on second, he bounced his throw to first and it evaded first baseman Dunkel, allowing Marquez to score.
“We had a little miscue at the end on the ground ball, and that kind of opened up the door,” said Mueller.”But that’s what good teams do. They put teams away that are struggling.”
South Portland’s Lewis pitched 6 ⅓ innings of six-hit three run ball, and Justin Baeyens picked up the win in relief with two innings of hitless, shutout baseball.
“Our pitching staff was fantastic this weekend,” said Derba.
Freshman Dylan Banner was outstanding for Albany, allowing just one earned run and nine hits over seven innings with six strikeouts.
Banner said his fastball was “heavy” and his slider had “tight spin to it.”
Jenkins went 3-for-3 with his homer. and he also received two intentional walks. Marquez, Plante and Dylan McNary had two hits each.
Hurd doubled and singled for Albany.
UMaine pounded out 39 hits in the two wins on Friday and Saturday, 20-4 and 12-1, respectively, and received solid outings from sophomore starters Colin Fitzgerald and Caleb Leys.
On Saturday, Jenkins’ two-run homer in the first inning gave the Black Bears a lead they would never relinquish.
Connor Goodman’s RBI fielder’s choice and Plante’s run-scoring single in the third built the lead to 4-1, and Ryan Turenne’s first homer of the season, a solo shot, made it 5-1 in the fourth.
UMaine tacked on three runs in the sixth and four in the seventh.
McDaniel and Plante each had four hits for UMaine. McDaniel had a double and Plante knocked in three.
Rainess and Sargent each had three hits with one of Rainess’ being his eighth homer of the season, a solo blast.
Marquez had a three-run double and drove in four runs.
Jason Bottari had two hits for Albany.
Lefty Leys hurled six innings of two-hit, one-run ball with seven strikeouts and three walks.
On Friday, two-run doubles by Marquez and Sargent and Jenkins’ two-run single highlighted an eight-run third-inning rally that followed a four-run second-inning outburst.
Jenkins finished with four hits and six RBIs, and Matt McElwain also had four hits.
McNary had three hits including a double. McDaniel hit his eighth homer of the season and also tripled, walked four times and drove in three runs. Sargent had a pair of doubles and knocked in a pair of runs.
Fitzgerald tossed 5 ⅓ innings of seven-hit, two-run ball with six strikeouts and two walks.
Dan Tauken tripled and singled and had two RBIs for Albany, Feil singled twice and Dunkel produced a two-run triple.