Black Bear Baseball Postseason Preview

AEFor the fifth year in a row, the University of Maine baseball team has qualified for the America East tournament.  This year’s road to a conference championship and a berth in the NCAA baseball tournament will, without question, be a challenging one.

Maine enters the America East tournament as the #4 (out of four) seed after finishing the regular season with a 10-11 conference record and an overall mark of 24-27.  For their troubles, Maine will play #1 seed Stony Brook (18-5 AE, 33-16 overall) when the championships kick off at 2pm on Thursday in Lowell, MA.

Unlike the MLB postseason, which mostly consists of best-of-five and best-of-seven series, the America East tournament is played using a double-elimination format.  While the Black Bears will clearly go into the tournament as a decided underdog, this format is far more conducive to upsets than a longer series format. 

In order to spring an upset on the Seawolves and advance in the winner’s bracket, Maine will need a strong performance at the plate from reigning America East Player of the Week Scott Heath (.341 BA, 27 RBI), who has been the Black Bears’ offensive leader all season.  Heath won’t be able to do it alone, however.  Maine will need more offensive production from his supporting cast than they got in their three regular season meetings with Stony Brook, in which Maine scored a combined six runs total, and dropped two of three games.

On the mound, one can only presume Maine’s ace, Tommy Lawrence (8-4, 3.17 ERA), will be handed the ball in Thursday’s tournament opener.  In a weekend-long double-elimination format, a hot pitcher can be like a hot goalie in hockey and carry his team to a championship.  If Lawrence is able to keep Stony Brook’s bats in check, he’ll give the Black Bears their best chance to advance through the top half of the bracket.

As Fill The Steins sees it, Maine will drop Thursday’s opener against the Seawolves and fall to the loser’s bracket, where they would meet the loser of Hartford vs. Binghamton.  We do, however, love the Black Bears’ chances against the Bearcats in a hypothetical loser’s bracket elimination game.  Binghamton also heads into the tournament with a sub-.500 overall and conference record.  That match-up is likely the Black Bears’ best chance to pick up a W in Lowell.

Ultimately, we see the Black Bears being eliminated before a possible championship round game.  However, we still fill the steins to Coach Trimper’s squad on putting together a solid season after a rough start, both on the field and the weather map, and winning 4 of their last 5 to close out the regular season.  We’re the first ones to hope we’re wrong and that the Black Bears can pull off an underdog championship.  If they do, rest assured, we’ll also be the first ones to fill the celebratory steins!

How do you think the Maine baseball team will fare in the America East Tournament?  Give us your predictions in the comments section below and join the conversation on Twitter using #FillTheSteins!

Photo courtesy www.americaeast.com

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