University of Maine second baseman Quinn McDaniel, a Marshwood High grad, is batting .424 over the last 16 games and .394 for the season. Photo courtesy of University of Maine athletics

There was no fire-up speech from the coach, no locker room tirade, and no players-only meeting. There was never a need.

Even in the midst of a sluggish start, the University of Maine baseball team knew it was good. And the Black Bears knew that, pretty soon, they’d show it.

“It’s Maine. We know the deal. … It’s early season jitters, early season rust. You’ve just got to shake it all off and stay the course,” said junior shortstop Jake Rainess. “If you believe you’re a good player, and know you’re a good player and know you’re a good ballclub, everything will take care of itself. Trust the process.”

That process has taken Maine to the top of America East. After a 3-10 start, the Black Bears have won 14 of their last 16 games. That included a 10-game winning streak that ended Sunday with an 18-17 loss to Binghamton. Maine is now 17-12, with an 11-1 mark in America East that’s good for first place in the conference.

“We definitely feel like we’re on a roll,” said junior second baseman Quinn McDaniel, an Eliot native and Marshwood High graduate. “When we’re winning games, it’s just fun. … We’re trying to win every game, and I think when we take it day by day, we’re a very dangerous team.”

Maine leads America East in batting (.335) and ERA (4.93) after 12 conference games.


“It’s just really all come together,” said starting pitcher and South Portland graduate Noah Lewis. “It’s a good group of guys and we’re just rolling.”

Maine went 27-22 last year, including a 14-game winning streak. But where Coach Nick Derba felt that was a case of a team catching fire, he said this run has just been a good team rounding into form.

“(Last year) we were on a streak,” he said. “This has felt very different. We’re doing what we expect to do.”

UMaine right-hander Noah Lewis, a graduate of South Portland High, is 2-0 with a 3.98 ERA in conference play. Photo courtesy of University of Maine athletics

Maine has become an offensive powerhouse. The Black Bears are hitting .341 over their last 16 games, and they lead the league in runs (112), home runs (22), RBI (104), on-base percentage (.434) and slugging percentage (.561). They’re 24th in the country in batting average at .311.

McDaniel (.394), first baseman Jeremiah Jenkins (.394), designated hitter Connor Goodman (.374), outfielder Myles Sargent (.336), Rainess (.322) and outfielder Dylan McNary (.302) are all batting over .300.

“We’re actually excited to get up in the box,” said Jenkins, who is hitting .488 in conference play and leads the team with 13 home runs and 49 RBI, including seven homers and 31 RBI in his last 11 games. On Tuesday, he was named America East Player of the Week.


“Even if we get down 5-0, we’re not panicking or freaking out. We’ve got this. We know we can easily put up five runs with no problem. We have confidence in ourselves and it’s passing through everybody.”

That confidence never wavered, even during the scuffles through the start of the schedule. Maine pitchers combined for a 9.52 ERA over the first 13 contests, all nonconference games.

“I was never really worried, because we were still hitting well. We were more encouraging the pitchers,” Jenkins said. “They’re our teammates. We believe in them. They’re going to do their jobs. … But it was frustrating. Losing is not fun. I hate losing more than anybody.”

The Black Bears also knew they were better than their record suggested. In six of their first 10 losses, Maine was tied or ahead going into the seventh inning or later.

“I knew things were going to turn around,” Derba said. “I was frustrated, though, because we left a lot of games on the table.”

Maine’s fortunes quickly changed. The Black Bears won four in a row, and then after a 5-4 loss to Saint Joseph’s University, they won the next 10, winning series against Saint Joseph’s and Binghamton around sweeps of UMass Lowell and Albany.


Confidence has swelled, particularly at the plate.

“I’m in the hole with two outs and I’ve got the (No.) 8, 9 hitter in front of me, and I feel like I’m going to get up to bat every time,” Rainess said. “It’s something I haven’t really experienced before.”

Few hitters have been hotter than McDaniel, who’s batted .424 over the last 16 games. McDaniel also has drawn 42 walks, resulting in a .570 on-base percentage. He’s scored a team-high 47 runs, and he’s tied with Rainess for second on the team with nine home runs.

“I feel locked in. I feel like I have really good control of the zone and really good control of the fastball,” he said. “That just makes me a dangerous hitter if I can control the zone and understand my hot zones.”

Meanwhile, the pitching that lagged early on has stabilized. The Black Bears’ conference-best ERA was at 3.69 before the most recent game.

Starting pitchers Colin Fitzgerald (3-0, 2.45), Caleb Leys (2-0, 3.50) and Lewis (2-0, 3.98) have been solid in conference play, and Justin Baeyens, Gianni Gambardella, Luc Lavigueur and Oxford Hills grad Colton Carson have led a formidable bullpen that has helped Maine earn five of its last 14 victories by one run.

“Not trying to reinvent the wheel when stuff goes wrong is what has helped us a lot,” Lewis said. “Derba preaches ‘First pitch, you’re hunting swings.’ Especially the way I pitch, I’m hunting the middle of the plate the entire time. … I play the odds, hunt the zone and good things have been happening.”

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