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Maine baseball falls to UMass Lowell, 9-7, in America East Tournament opener

The loss sends the Black Bears to an elimination game scheduled for Friday at 2:30 p.m.
Published: May. 26, 2022 at 5:15 PM EDT
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ORONO, Maine (WABI) - America East’s regular season baseball champions will have an uphill climb through elimination play to capture the conference’s tournament title.

The loss sends the Black Bears to an elimination game scheduled for Friday at 2:30 p.m.
The loss sends the Black Bears to an elimination game scheduled for Friday at 2:30 p.m.(WABI)

Maine’s 9-7 loss in its first America East Tournament game to UMass Lowell showed how strong the River Hawks can be in one particular area that’s important in postseason play: bullpen pitching performance.

UML’s staff surrendered just one run after starter Ryan Towle was pulled after allowing six runs through 3.2 innings.

The River Hawks called on winning pitcher Zach Fortuna, Matt Draper, Sal Fusco, Michael Quigley, and ultimately Henry Funaro for the save.

Players and coaches said the performance lifted the team to the next round, without a loss in the double-elimination tournament.

“We’ve had a great bullpen. They’ve really picked it up at the end of the year. At the beginning of the year, they were trying to put it together. They’ve been really good for us at the end of the year winning close games,” said Frank Wayman, UMass Lowell junior infielder.

“These guys have been resilient all year. It’s not always the prettiest innings, but they have the stuff. Fusco and Quigley have the stuff to be able to get out of innings with their velocity. Also, their secondary pitches are very, very good,” said Ken Harring, UMass Lowell head coach.

UMass Lowell will be back on the field on Friday at 11 a.m.

As for the Black Bears, they’re left kicking themselves over missed opportunities with runners left on base, while opening the door for the River Hawks in their five-run 5th inning.

Although the loss stings, Maine still has a chance to win the conference.

“The situational hitting wasn’t where it was. We left 11 or 12 runners on base. We had an awful performance out of the bullpen in a big, key spot. Things like that can’t happen in championship baseball, and they happened,” said Nick Derba, Maine head coach.

“We just stay with the same focus that we’ve been working with all year. We move on, forget, and then go out and attack in that elimination game,” said Joe Bramanti, graduate student infielder, hit two home runs.

The Black Bears will now have to win four straight games to become America East champions, including two on the league’s title game Saturday.

Maine is scheduled to play again on Friday after the River Hawks at roughly 2:30 p.m.

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