With two weekends left in the regular season, the only thing we know for sure is the Maine Black Bears (19-5) have locked up the number one seed for the postseason tournament. The rest is still a mystery as no team has been eliminated from playing tournament baseball. This means anything can and probably will happen before all is said and done. With plenty still left to be decided, the baseball over the next two weeks should be great to go check out. Speaking of the tournament, tickets for the America East baseball tournament went on sale last week. Check out Maine’s baseball page for all the information. Here is the rest of the news.
The Maine winning streak was snapped at 14 over the weekend by the UMass Lowell River Hawks (11-13). A terrific three-game series took place at LeLacheur Park with the River Hawks taking two of three and becoming just the second conference team to claim a series from the Black Bears. As River Hawks head coach Ken Harring said “they were six wars.” Four of the six meetings were decided by one run. There were three walk-off wins, two for Maine and one for Lowell. Both teams have a pretty good idea they will meet again in Maine during the tournament. Despite the series loss, the Black Bears did secure the number one seed for the postseason. This is important because it means they will bypass the opening round. Lowell moved a step closer to taking the second seed in the event which would allow them to miss the opening round as well. However, they still have work to do as they will finish the season playing their final six league games on the road, three vs Hartford, and three vs Albany.
Don’t look now but the Hartford Hawks (7-17) are still alive for the final spot in the tournament. That’s because last weekend on the road they took two of three from the Albany Great Danes (9-15). After losing game one, the Hawks came back and won both Saturday and Sunday’s games. On Saturday, they got a big starting pitching performance from Tim Blaisdell who threw a complete-game six-hitter with one earned run allowed. He got help from Ben Maycock (3-4, 2 RS, RBI, HR) and Martin Chavarria who went 2-4, 3 RBI. On Sunday, the Hawks scored eight runs combined in the seventh and eighth innings to come back from down 11-4 after six and win 12-11. Derek Tenney had a big day (2-4, 3 RS, 3 RBI, HR in the fifth) as did Daniel Burnett (4-5, RS, 3 RBI). The Hawks bullpen duo of James Judens and Will Nowak combined to go three scoreless and hitless innings with five strikeouts. Judens picked up the win and Nowak recorded his second save. The schedule down the stretch does not favor the Hawks as they have three games left at home with Lowell and then three more with Maine.
The reason why Hartford is still alive is that UMBC (8-16) stumbled over the weekend at Stony Brook. The Seawolves swept the series from UMBC leaving a one-game difference in the loss column between Hartford and Maryland-Baltimore County. On Friday night, Ian Diaz (3-4, RBI) tied the game with an RBI double scoring Myles Nicholson in the top of the ninth to make it a 4-4 game. In the bottom of the ninth, Seawolves SS Stanton Leuthner, on the first pitch he saw from UMBC reliever Colton Bare, hit a walk-off HR just inside the left-field foul pole for a walk-off 5-4 win. After Saturday’s game was postponed, the two teams played a doubleheader on Sunday with Stony Brook winning twice. Game one, which was a seven-inning affair, went extras with the Seawolves walking off again. Shane Paradine won it with an infield hit that scored Derek Yalon with the game-winning run in a 3-2 win. Game two saw Stony Brook win 6-3 as Matt Brown-Ering had a 3-4, 2 RS, and an RBI. On the mound, Colton Book went six innings giving up three hits and three unearned runs to get the win. Josh O’Neil went three innings of one-hit no run pitching to get his third save. UMBC is home this weekend to face NJIT.
The Highlanders (13-11) took two of three from Binghamton (12-12) last weekend. After losing game one in walk-off fashion in the first game of a Saturday DH, NJIT came back to win the last two and take the series. Last year’s closer turned this year’s starter Jake Rappaport went seven innings of two-hit one-run baseball throwing 79 pitches in the outing. Grant Vurpillat got the save. Game two saw NJIT win 6-3 behind Julio Marcano with a double and home run to lead the offense. Albert Choi chipped in with a 3-5, one-run scored game. Vurpillar saved his third game of the year and second of the day. NJIT, Binghamton, and UMass Lowell are all fighting for the number two seed and an opening-round bye in the tournament.
The America East Player and Rookie of the Week is Brandon Fish of UMass Lowell. In the series win over Maine, Fish hit .583 (7-12, 4 RBI, RS). He would double in all three games while playing a solid third base for the River Hawks. For Fish, this is his first player of the week award and second rookie award.
The America East Pitcher of the Week is Ray Weber of Albany. In the Great Danes’ win over Hartford last weekend, Weber tossed seven shutout innings with six strikeouts. This is Weber’s second career pitching award.
Next week we will look at the final weekend of play in the America East Conference.
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