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Baseball To Battle Maine For First Place This Weekend

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Baseball To Battle Maine For First Place This Weekend


ALBANY, N.Y. – There will be a battle for first place this weekend at Varsity Field when the University at Albany baseball team hosts America East Conference foe Maine in a three-game series. While the Black Bears have stood atop the conference standings all season long, the second-place Great Danes, who are just 1.5 games behind the leaders, will look to knock them off, as well as clinch a spot in the championship tournament. In addition, with 299 wins, head coach Jon Mueller will look to capture his 300th career coaching victory. Saturday’s doubleheader begins as noon, followed by a single game Sunday, also at noon.

PITCHING PROBABLES: Maine (27-17, 14-6) at UAlbany (20-17-1, 13-8)
Sat., May 4, 12 p.m. – Tommy Lawrence, Maine (8-2, 2.02 ERA) vs. Kasceim Graham, Albany (6-4, 3.41 ERA)
Sat., May 4, 3 p.m. – AJ Bazdanes, Maine (5-4, 3.11 ERA) vs. Austin Chase, Albany (5-3, 4.27 ERA)
Sun., May 5, 1 p.m. – Mike Connolly, Maine (4-3, 1.65 ERA) vs. TBD

With three weeks remaining in the season, playoff positions are still up for grabs in America East baseball. UAlbany and Maine both have a chance to clinch spots in the championship this weekend. The Black Bears have a magic number of five, which is any combination of Maine wins and Stony Brook losses. UAlbany has a magic number of six and plays the Seawolves next weekend. The Great Danes can clinch a spot in the championship with a sweep. However, Stony Brook is still very much alive, trailing Binghamton by only 1.5 games for the final championship spot.

UAlbany head coach Jon Mueller has 299 career wins. He will go for the milestone victory Tuesday against the Blue Devils. Mueller is in his 14th season at the helm and ranks first in UAlbany baseball coaching victories with a 299-400-5 record.

SCOUTING THE GREAT DANES (20-17-1, 13-8 America East)
Currently in second place in the America East standings, UAlbany is on a roll, winning seven of the last nine games and five of the last six conference contests. On the season, UAlbany is batting a collective .280 average as five Danes are hitting above .300. Josh Nethaway (.333), freshman Matt Hinchy (.324), junior Brian Bullard (.318), senior Jeff Welsh (.310), and senior Greg Muller (.309) are all seeing the ball well as of late. Defensively, the Danes are fielding .967, while the pitching staff owns a 4.76 earned run average.

THE UALBANY COACH: Jon Mueller (14th season, Eckerd College ‘92)
Jon Mueller is in his 14th season as the head coach of the University at Albany baseball program. The Stillwater, N.Y. native has had proven success as both a player and coach throughout his career. Mueller ranks first among UAlbany’s career leaders with 299 coaching victories, and was named the America East Coach of the Year in 2004. He also led the Danes to the program’s first America East Conference tournament championship title and NCAA appearance in 2007. Mueller has produced dozens of all-conference standouts and has had six players selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft under his direction, including one in each of the past two seasons.

SCOUTING THE BLACK BEARS (20-17, 14-62 America East)
Maine comes off a pair of non-conference win over Presque Isle (21-3) and Farmington (11-1). In America East play, the Black Bears come off their first conference series loss of the season, falling in two-of-three against Hartford last weekend. Maine won game one, 5-3, but the visiting Hawks rallied to take the final two, 3-1 and 1-0. Offensively, Maine leads the conference with a collective .298 batting average led by Michael Fransoso (.348), Troy Black (.328), Sam Balzano (.319), and Brian Dorian (.309). The Black Bear pitching staff boasts a 3.43 team earned run average, while the defense owns a .960 fielding percentage. Starting pitcher Tommy Lawrence is a perfect 7-0 in conference play, allowing just six earned runs in 49.1 innings pitched.

THE BLACK BEAR COACH: Steve Trimper (Eighth season, East Connecticut State, ’92)
During his time at Maine, Trimper has led the Black Bears to a pair of NCAA Regional appearance in 2006 and most-recently in 2011. He has coached 16 players that have been selected in the MLB draft, including seven during his time at Maine and nine while coaching at Manhattan. He has also held coaching positions at Vermont and Wentworth College. Trimper played baseball for three years at Eastern Connecticut State University and was a member of the Warriors’ 1990 NCAA Division III National Championship team.

UAlbany looks to make ground in the all-time series with Maine, as the Black Bears own a slight advantage, 30-25, dating back to 2002. In their last meeting (March 30-31), Maine clinched the series in the first two games, winning 4-1 and 7-4. However, the Great Danes were able to bounce back and won the finale, 7-6, rallying for four unanswered runs after trailing by three in the seventh. Last year, Maine eliminated the Danes from the America East Tournament with an 8-3 victory. In the regular season, UAlbany captured both series, winning four of six games. Great Dane seniors Jeff Welsh and Nolan Gaige have had lucrative at-bats against the Black Bears in their careers. In 16 games, Welsh owns a .321 (18-56) career batting average against the Maine pitching staff, including nine runs, three doubles, two triples, two home runs, 10 RBI, and a .554 slugging percentage. In Gaige’s 20 games played versus Maine, he boasts a .286 (24-84) average, 14 runs, three doubles, a triple, two home runs, nine RBI, and a .417 slugging percentage.

With two hits last Wednesday night at Manhattan, senior Nolan Gaige became the University at Albany baseball program’s all-time hits leader, now totaling 234 in his four-year career. Gaige passed Michael Oliva (229: 1997-01) in the archives with his first hit of the night — a leadoff double in the top of the first. In addition, Gaige is UAlbany’s all-time triples leader with 15 in his career, and ranks second for runs scored (154).

In the entire three-game series with UMBC, the Great Dane pitching staff and defense were outstanding, as no errors were committed. The pitchers held the opposition to a .129 batting average and boasted a miniscule 0.36 ERA, allowing just one run and 11 hits total. At the plate, UAlbany outscored the Retrievers 16-1 in the series, amassing 28 hits.

Junior Brian Bullard led UAlbany to a 4-0 week, including a conference series sweep over UMBC, as well as an 11-5 victory at Manhattan. Bullard batted .500 (7-for-14) with three runs batted in, five runs scored, and stole a base. The second baseman led the squad with an .857 slugging percentage, ripping two doubles and a home run. Bullard went 3-for-5 with three runs scored at Manhattan, and also logged a multi-hit game in the series opener vs. UMBC with a pair of two-baggers. Bullard sparked a four-run rally in the fifth inning with a leadoff double and broke the scoreless stalemate with what would be the winning run. In the nightcap, Bullard belted a two-run home run, giving the Danes a 4-0 advantage. The West Nyack, N.Y. native also tallied a hit in UAlbany’s 1-0 series finale win. On the season, Bullard owns a .318 batting average, while also hitting .313 in conference play.

Tossing a gem in UAlbany’s 5-0 win over UMBC, senior Kasceim Graham hurled a complete game two-hit shutout with four strikeouts in the seven-inning series opener. The Brooklyn, N.Y. native faced just four over the minimum and did not allow a single runner past first base. Graham held the Retrievers to a .087 batting average and recorded three perfect innings. Going the distance in the victory, Graham is now tied for third all-time at UAlbany with 247.2 innings pitched in his four-year career. The right-hander leads the Danes with six wins this spring, including four over America East opponents, while boasting a 2.82 ERA in conference play.

Freshman Ryan Stinar was composed under pressure, entering Sunday’s series finale with just a 1-0 lead, a runner on second, and only one out in the top of the ninth. However, the rookie forced a groundout to first and a fly out to left, preserving the win for UAlbany, while also recording his fifth save of the year. Stinar combined with starter Stephen Carey and reliever Andrew Jaurique for the shutout. Stinar also made an appearance in UAlbany’s 11-5 win at Manahttan, tossing the final two scoreless frames. In conference play this season, Stinar owns a 1-0 record with two saves and a 2.81 ERA.

In his last four outings on the mound, senior Austin Chase (5-3, 4.27 ERA) has earned the win. Most recently against UMBC, Chase went the distance and held the Retrievers to just one run and four hits, while striking out a career-high nine batters in UAlbany’s 10-1 victory. The gem marked the fourth complete game of his career. Previously, Chase earned straight wins over Hartford, St. John’s, and Marist.

The Great Danes are amidst an eight-game home stand that began with the three-game series against UMBC. UAlbany hosted Central Connecticut for one Tuesday, welcomes Maine for three this weekend, and Hofstra for one on May 8th.

Senior Nolan Gaige is UAlbany’s all-time leader for at-bats. Playing and starting in 194 games in his career (3rd all-time), Gaige — a mainstay in the leadoff spot — has recorded 761 career at-bats.

Announced by the league office March 6th, the America East Conference will take its 2013 baseball championship to LeLacheur Park in Lowell, Mass., home of Boston Red Sox Single A affiliate Lowell Spinners. The state of the art facility was tabbed to host the entire championship, marking the first time it has been held at a predetermined minor-league facility since 2001. The 2013 America East Championship will begin on Wednesday May 22, and conclude on either May 24 or May 25.

UAlbany will welcome Hofstra to Varsity Field for non-conference clash Wednesday before traveling to face Stony Brook for a three-game conference series Saturday and Sunday.

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