SANFORD — Some of the Sanford Mainers most impressive wins this season have been on the comeback trail, but that doesn’t mean it’s a path the Moose want to frequently travel.  

While games such as an eight-run rally against Marthas Vineyard on June 22 or a walk-off win over New Bedford less than a week later are thrilling for the fans, it’s not a recipe for success as the Mainers look to make a playoff push in the second half of the New England Collegiate Baseball League season. 

“Those games are a lot of fun, but we’d rather not be in that situation where we have to comeback like that,” said second baseman Drew DeMartino. “Hopefully, some of those moments help us rack up some wins going forward.”

With 21 games remaining in the regular season, Sanford (8-13) sits five games back of the first place North Adams SteepleCats in the Northern Division. 

Inconsistent fielding and starting pitching have been factors in the Mainers slow start, said head coach Cejay Suarez, as has getting an early lead. Sanford’s opponents have scored first in 14 of 21 games.    

The Mainers are batting a league worst .219 as a team and also rank last in runs scored (70), but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about a late-season playoff charge. 

Offensively, Nick Howie is having a strong year, entering Wednesday’s action with a .342 batting average with two doubles and eight RBIs. DeMartino entered the night ninth in the league in batting average (.353), and leads the team in hits (24), home runs (three), RBIs (15) and doubles (seven). He has also played a leading role in Sanford’s come from behind wins. Against Marthas Vineyard, DeMartino sparked Sanford’s rally with a two-run double in the eighth and then completed the comeback with a game-tying, two-run homer in the ninth. In Sanford’s walk-off over New Bedford, DeMartino went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI.

“Drew’s been lights out for us,” Suarez said. “We expect greatness from him, and he gives us his best effort every day.” 

Suarez continues to preach unwavering confidence in his relief pitching, which has been one of the team’s bright spots. 

Jacob Parker hasn’t allowed a run in 6 ⅓ innings while converting all three of his save opportunities. Relievers Nick Laster, Matt Rudis and Matthew Pushard, a junior at the University of Maine, have combined to allow just three earned runs over 23 innings. 

Suarez said he plans to call on his most-trusted relievers earlier in games in the second half of the season.

“We’re going to get a little creative here with our bullpen the next couple weeks,” Suarez said.  “We’re going to get them more appearances and try pitch a few innings at a time … Those are the best arms on our team, and they give us the best chance to win a game.” 

Suarez, who is in his first year at the helm in Sanford, admitted that this season has been a learning process, but he’s thrilled with his team’s perseverance. He just hopes their never-say-die attitude leads to more wins in the second half. 

“Overall, you want the players to have a good experience in June,” he said. “Then, we’re going to hopefully play to win every game and go on a playoff run … (These comebacks) show a lot of resiliency in our guys. Each kid keeps grinding, keeps getting better and it shows in those comebacks … They care and they want to be here, and they want to get better.”

 

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