Back home in Orono, they’ll be measuring the depth of the snow. Again.

Meanwhile, the Maine baseball and softball teams are traveling the length of the continent to gauge the depth of their rosters. Both teams open play Friday in Florida. And both coaches are excited about what a large crop of new players may mean.

“The hardest obstacle we have here is the weather. We can only simulate baseball inside so much. We need to feel out our roster early on,” Black Bear baseball coach Steve Trimper said.

“I think we really added a ton of depth to our team. With doing that, it creates an internal competition which has been non-stop.”

A closer look at both teams:



The baseball team is spending the weekend in Winter Haven but is facing an opponent from the frigid north. Maine has a four-game series against Wisconsin-Milwaukee before visiting Clemson next weekend. Trimper, in his 10th season at the Black Bears helm, changed his scheduling philosophy this year so that his team won’t have to immediately contend with a bunch of southern powerhouses who have been able to practice outside all winter.

“It’s a weekend that we’re both going to make mistakes,” Trimper said of facing the Panthers. “We could split, or one team could win three games and they played a little bit better. It’s not going to be a thumping, I think.

“It will give us the ability to maybe feel good about yourself when you win a couple because you might have not played your best and you still were in a position to win. That doesn’t always happen when you’re playing a top-15 program the first month of the season. This is a much better gauge than we’ve ever had.”

Maine finished a disappointing 24-29 last year and was swept out of the America East Conference tournament in the first round. The Black Bears have reloaded, with 13 true freshmen and a pair of junior transfers with Division I experience. They were the preseason pick to finish second in America East.

The strength, Trimper said, will be an offense led by senior Scott Heath of Westbrook. Heath paced the team with a .361 average, four home runs and 29 RBI last year. The left-handed first baseman also is the Black Bears’ top pitcher, and figures to take the mound for the final game of each series.

“We’re going to find out a lot about how we’re going to respond to adversity because not every game is going to go as planned,” the team captain said of the Florida trip. “We’re not going to go 56-0. I think this year we have a lot of guys that are capable. I’m excited.”


Joining Heath in the heart of the lineup will be senior outfielder Brian Doran, highly touted freshman third baseman Danny Diaz and converted pitcher Luke Morrill, who likely will be the designated hitter, Trimper said.

Senior Sam Balzano of Portland returns as the center fielder and leadoff batter. Trimper is hoping to get a good look at 14 hitters in the early going, though, including transfers Kevin Stypulkowski at catcher (who played at Florida) and shortstop Brett Chappell (who played at Northern Illinois).

The starting rotation for the opening weekend has a heavy Maine flavor. Sophomore Jeff Gelinas of Saco will get the ball in Friday’s opener. He was 3-4 with a 3.86 ERA as a freshman and followed that with a strong showing in the summer Cape Cod League. Hulking freshman Justin Courtney of Bangor will start the second game Saturday. At 6-foot-5, he has impressed Trimper and Heath alike with his maturity and mound presence.

The question mark is junior Jake Marks, who will start the nightcap Saturday. As a freshman, the Canadian showed great promise with a 4-0 record and a 3.16 ERA. But this time last year, it all fell apart. Marks couldn’t find the plate, walking 15 batters in 18 innings while putting up an 8.84 ERA. By the time conference play began, he was an afterthought.

Trimper said Marks was the team’s best pitcher in the fall, however, and he will get every shot to solidify the Black Bears’ rotation.

Heath will start Sunday’s finale so that he can concentrate on hitting in the first three games.


“We have a lot of combos that we can play with this lineup,” Trimper said. “This is a group that should be able to score a lot of runs. I love the potential.”


The Maine softball team begins its season in Jacksonville with 12 letter-winners back from an 18-19 squad. The Black Bears also appear to be loaded on offense, led by Virginia seniors Jessica Burk (.384) and EmJ Fogel (.307). Maine opens with five games in three days against against Jacksonville State, North Florida, Virginia Tech and James Madison.

“It will take some time to adjust to being outside. It’s definitely exciting to get out of the snow,” Burk said. “We have a solid lineup and we definitely have a lot of depth, so people can be switching in and out and it’s not going to take away from anything. I think we’re going to surprise some people.”

Maine won only eight games two springs ago, so last year marked great progress. It was picked to finish fourth in this year’s America East preseason poll.

The team has eight freshman and one junior transfer, and Coach Lynn Coutts said it’s the best-prepared squad in her four years at the helm.


“When you get new kids coming in like that, they actually push the upperclassmen. It’s a very healthy competition here,” Coutts said. “We’ll learn who’s ready to get the call, who can perform and then you get the pleasant surprises.”

Maine has five pitchers, but will lean on senior Alexis Bogdanovich (4-9, 2.96 ERA last year) of South Portland. Younger sister Erin also will get a chance, as will freshman Molly Flowers of East Haven, Connecticut.

Coutts said the team isn’t focusing on how close it came to breaking through in the conference last year, but rather what it had to do to improve on that eight-win season of 2013.

“The group that is seniors now know how we got through that type of adversity in a positive way,” Coutts said. “This year, we don’t worry about where we’re picked to finish. Nobody knows what we’ve been doing, nobody knows our personnel right how.

“We can go two-deep at every position. To me, that pushes (the starters), but it’s also a comforting thing, because if you’re not having a good day, you get a little break and someone can step in.”

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