The University of Maine baseball team will take its hot streak to North Carolina this weekend for its first trip to an NCAA regional since 2006.

Maine (32-22) will face North Carolina (45-14) at 6 p.m. Friday in its opening game of the double-elimination regional at Chapel Hill. UNC is the overall No. 3 seed in the 64-team tournament.

The Black Bears are the No. 4 seed in their regional, which also includes No. 2 Florida International and No. 3 James Madison.

Maine earned an automatic bid to the NCAAs by winning the America East tournament at Stony Brook, N.Y., with a 3-0 record. The Black Bears have won 17 of their last 18 games.

Players met at the Mahaney Diamond clubhouse around 10 a.m. Monday, then made their way to the Sea Dog, a restaurant in Bangor, to watch the selection show on ESPN and find out their next stop.

“Everyone is so excited about the whole thing. It’s been building up, building up,” said catcher Taylor Lewis. “Right now we have a great confidence level. And right now is the best time to have it.

“You go on a streak like this early, it doesn’t always work out in the end. This year it’s been a roller coaster of a year with everything that’s been going on. We’re just happy we’re on the streak we’re on right now.”

Joey Martin of Portland, a co-captain and fifth-year senior, said he’s awaited this moment his whole career.

“I knew we had something special from the get-go,” said Martin. “Going to a regional is what I’ve wanted to do since I’ve been here. It’s awesome.”

He also said the team’s ability to put together such an impressive string of wins has a lot to do with its approach to games.

“I think it’s our quiet confidence and laid-back personalities,” said Martin.

“We show up to a game and have fun. We have fun and play hard.”

Maine Coach Steve Trimper said his team’s run couldn’t have come at a better time.

“Whether it’s the NHL or MLB … it’s all about peaking at the right time. Playing hot, consistent,” said Trimper. “We’ve played consistent great defense, pitched a lot better, cut down on the walks and our offense just got going.”

Trimper said this spring’s damp, cold weather hindered the Black Bears’ offense, but also forced them to play small ball and learn how to manufacture runs.

“I don’t think people realize how difficult it is to play on the road as many games as we did. Our offense sputtered a little,” he said. “We played in more 38-degree, rainy days than I ever have in my career. But it made us a better ballclub. We started manufacturing runs, then when our bats got hot, we kept on rolling.”

Trimper last took a team to a regional in 2006, also in North Carolina, whose pitching staff was led by Daniel Bard.

The Black Bears scored 26 runs in two games but lost both – 15-7 to North Carolina and 21-19 to North Carolina Wilmington.

“We played them tough, were up 4-1 in the sixth, then made a couple of errors,” Trimper said of the loss to North Carolina.

“But we also played them last winter in a three-game series. We were able to take one of those games so they’re probably shaking in their boots a little.”

Trimper said his team doesn’t mind being the underdog.

“It’s playing loose. The pressure’s on them. They’re getting a hot club. They’re going to be preparing for a hot club,” he said.

“We’re not changing up all kinds of things. We’ll play one game a time.

“It was Albany, Stony Brook, Binghamton, now North Carolina. After that’s done, we’ll go on to the next.”

The Chapel Hill regional champion will advance to face the winner of the Cal State Fullerton Regional in a best-of-three super regional.

The eight super regional winners will advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at: [email protected]

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