Over the last few months, some significant sports news has circulated out of our state’s flagship University, from coaches receiving contract extensions to high-profile recruits preparing to come to Orono in the fall.
Perhaps somewhat lost in all that is the fact that the University of Maine has a pretty darn good softball team this year.
Heading into the final weekend of regular-season play, the Black Bears are a solid 23-18 overall and 10-4 in America East, good for third in the conference. UMaine will entertain Maryland-Baltimore County to close out the regular season.
Having spent quite a few years on the high school softball beat for this newspaper, I can tell you that it is a riveting game to watch, especially at the college level. Maine high schools have sent some very talented players to Division I institutions over the years, and this Black Bear squad features five homegrown players.
College softball generally does not get the attention in the Northeast that it does on the West Coast or the Southeast, but this UMaine team certainly deserves yours. The Black Bears are a lock to make the four-team conference tournament, and can improve on their third-place rankings against UMBC this weekend.
Coach Mike Coutts’ ballclub is coming off a three-game road sweep of conference rival Hartford, and boasts a solid team earned run average of 3.28.
If you have a chance this weekend, get up to campus and catch a game. Admission at Kessock Field is free, the sightlines are spectacular and the Black Bears deserve your support. It also marks senior weekend for lone senior Janelle Bouchard of Kennebunk, who has done an outstanding job behind the plate.
SOX SIZZLING IN SPITE OF PRICE’S SLOW START
If you were to tell me that Boston Red Sox ace David Price would have an earned run average over 6 the first week of May, I would have laughed.
If you to have predicted the Sox would be 15-10 and Rick Porcello and Steven Wright would be the “aces” of the pitching staff, I would’ve thought you were extremely crazy.
Yes, Price has gotten off to his usual slow start. However, Porcello and Wright have picked up the slack on the mound, and thanks to a sweep of the Yankees at Fenway, the Sox woke up Monday morning in sole possession of first place in the American League East.
Look, Price will be just fine. I’m surprised yet impressed with Porcello, who had a rocky 2015 campaign. The pitching staff will get some boosts in the coming weeks with the returns of starter Eduardo Rogriguez and reliever Carson Smith from injuries.
All the while, the Sox have one of the best lineups in baseball. There are no easy outs in John Farrell’s lineup, so as long as Price can find his mojo and Clay Buchholz can somehow find some consistency, this will be a fun summer of baseball at Fenway Park.
WHO SHOULD CELTICS FANS ROOT FOR?
Now that the Boston Celtics have been bounced from the Eastern Conference playoffs, of course fans are going to ask themselves “Who should I root for?”
The NBA playoffs certainly aren’t the same without games being played on Causeway Street. Even though TD Garden lacks the atmosphere of the old Boston Garden, passionate Celtics fans certainly rocked the building in the three games the team played there against Atlanta.
I know that no Celtic fan will be rooting for that LeBron James guy and his Cleveland Cavaliers. James has always received choruses of boos when he’s played on the parquet. If there’s any team in the East capable of knocking off the Cavs, it’s Toronto. The Raptors just have to get past Miami first.
As for me, I’ll be rooting for the Golden State Warriors to cement themselves among the greatest teams in NBA history. Old school basketball fans may not like the Warriors’ flashy style, but it is enjoyable to watch. Not only do they have some excellent pure shooters, they move the ball extremely well and are always looking to wear you down with their athleticism. And Steph Curry may be back at some point in their series against the Portland Trail Blazers.
All signs are pointing to a Warriors-San Antonio Western Conference Final. Whomever wins that series will be raising the Larry O’Brien Trophy next month.