The University of Maine’s baseball team moved closer to clinching its second straight America East regular season championship this weekend.
The Black Bears took two of three from the University of Massachusetts Lowell at LeLacheur Park in Lowell, Massachusetts, on Friday and Saturday.
Sophomore first baseman Jeremiah Jenkins had three hits and drove in four runs, with three of those runs coming on his 17th homer of the season as the Black Bears won the series finale 11-5 on Saturday.
UMaine won Friday’s doubleheader opener 8-4 before the River Hawks prevailed in the nightcap 2-1.
The teams were supposed to play single games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but inclement weather forced them to play a doubleheader on Friday, with the first game being a seven-inning affair, and a single game that began on Saturday morning.
UMaine, which shared the regular season title with now-departed Stony Brook last season, improved to 23-15 overall and 13-2 in the conference while UMass Lowell is 13-28 and 6-12, respectively.
On Saturday, UMaine took the lead for good with four second-inning runs on Jake Rainess’ run-scoring double, Quinn McDaniel’s sacrifice fly and RBI singles by Connor Goodman and Nick White.
UMaine expanded the lead to 7-1 with three runs in the third when Jenkins was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Goodman delivered a two-run single.
The River Hawks chipped away at the lead and got within 7-4, but Jenkins’ three-run blast in the ninth following an RBI single by Rainess salted the game away.
Besides Jenkins, Rainess and Goodman were also repeat hitters as Rainess had a double and a single and Goodman singled twice.
Noah Lewis picked up the win, his fifth in six decisions, with seven innings of five-hit, four-run ball. He walked four and struck out eight. Luc Lavigueur pitched a scoreless eighth and Ryan Scott finished up, allowing a run in the ninth.
Standish native Jacob Humphrey doubled and singled for UMass Lowell and Gerry Siracusa hit his third homer of the season.
On Friday, junior right fielder Colin Plante broke a 2-2 tie with a grand slam in the top of the fifth and Goodman singled in a pair of runs in the sixth as the Black Bears captured game one.
Jenkins opened the fifth with a base hit and White and Jeff Mejia drew walks before Plante hit his second homer of the season with two outs.
Humphrey’s two-run homer, his fifth of the season, cut the lead to 6-4 in the bottom of the fifth but Goodman came through with a clutch, two-out single that delivered two important insurance runs in the sixth.
Goodman had three singles for UMaine, Plante had a base hit to go with his grand slam and Jenkins doubled and singled.
Colin Fitzgerald improved to 5-1 with five innings of three-hit, four-run ball. He walked four and struck out six. Justin Baeyens scattered four hits over two scoreless innings.
Siracusa had a two-run double and single for UMass Lowell.
In Friday’s nightcap, UMass Lowell’s Joshua Becker and LJ Keevan combined on a five-hitter and Humphrey scored the winning run in the seventh inning on a two-out wild pitch by Gianni Gambardella.
Humphrey singled to get on base, and then stole second and third.
UMaine tied it with an unearned run in the top of the seventh on White’s double, a hit batsman, an error and Dean O’Neill’s sacrifice fly.
Matt Tobin’s RBI double in the sixth staked UMass Lowell to a 1-0 lead.
Jenkins was the game’s only repeat hitter with a double and a single.
Becker tossed 7 ⅓ innings of four-hit, one-run ball with six strikeouts and no walks. The run was unearned. He is now 3-2. Keevan allowed one hit and two walks over 2 ⅔ innings to notch his first save.
UMaine starter Caleb Leys went five innings and gave up just one hit while striking out five and walking four. Gambardella, now 4-2, allowed two runs over three innings with three strikeouts and two walks.
UMaine will host the University of Maryland Baltimore County on Friday (4 p.m.), Saturday (1 p.m.) and Sunday (noon), while UMass Lowell will entertain the New Jersey Institute of Technology on those same days at 6 p.m., 1 p.m. and noon, respectively.