FARMINGTON — By late Sunday afternoon, that losing streak the University of Maine at Farmington baseball team dragged into this weekend was a distant memory. After dropping seven games in a row, and eight of nine, the Beavers regained some of their mojo this weekend, sweeping four games from North Atlantic Conference rival Lyndon State College.

The Beavers completed the four-game sweep with two wins over the Hornets on Sunday at Hippach Field, 2-0 and 6-2. The four wins improved UMF’s record to 12-10, 5-7 in NAC play, and the Beavers are back in the hunt for one of the conference’s four playoff spots.

UMF coach Chris Bessey said the losing streak wasn’t a big concern, considering the competition against which it came.

“The schedule was kind of deceiving, because we opened up (NAC play) with four against Castleton and Husson, so we got the two toughest teams first,” Bessey said. “Their pitching is pretty good, and they quieted our bats down.”

The Beavers’ bats woke up this weekend. UMF outscored Lyndon, 36-9, in the series. Bessey attributed much of the offensive success to a shuffled lineup. Bessey felt some of the players were pressing too much at the plate. To put them at ease, he tweaked the batting order, most notably moving senior designated hitter Jimmy Neal from sixth to leadoff.

On Saturday, Neal went 4 for 4 in the two games combined, with four runs scored and four RBIs in his collegiate leadoff debut.

“I had to adjust to it a little bit, being in the sixth spot before, but I think we needed to shake the order up a little bit and get some offense rolling. I like it,” Neal, a Farmington native, said.

On Sunday, Neal followed up by going 3 for 6, with two runs and three RBIs. His RBI single in the fourth inning of Game 2 gave the Beavers a 4-1 lead, and Neal’s RBI double in the sixth plated an insurance run. The strong series improved Neal’s batting average to .340, and his on base percentage to a team-leading .508.

“He’s usually one of our middle of the order type guys. He’s a left handed hitter who’s got speed, and he’s got some power, too. He had some great at-bats in the leadoff spot,” Bessey said of Neal. “He was having six, seven, eight pitch at bats from the top of the order, and that’s what you need from the leadoff guy.”

Overall, this weekend was a chance for UMF’s seniors to shine. A senior threw a complete game for the win in each of Sunday’s starts. In Game 1, it was Kyle Peterson, who threw a three-hit shutout, striking out two and walking two.

“Kyle’s been challenged a little bit. He wants to be the ace of the staff, and he’s a little bit motivated. I’ve been having some sophomores maybe pitch a little bit more than in the past. He kept (Lyndon) off balance. He didn’t have a lot of strikeouts, but he got a lot of mistimed hits, and our defense was pretty good behind him,” Bessey said.

In Game 2, Erskine Academy graduate Jory Humphrey scattered five hits to go with two walks and three strikeouts. The Beavers took the lead when senior Tom Grady, also an Erskine grad, hit a two-run double to the left field wall in the third inning. Senior Ben Keene had two hits in Game 2 for the Beavers, including an RBI single in the sixth.

After a non-conference game against Bates on Tuesday, UMF hosts Thomas for a NAC doubleheader on Wednesday. The Beavers hit the road for four big games at New England College this weekend.

“We definitely had some tough competition and some tough losses, but these four wins are big for us. It allows us to move forward as a team and get better from it. It was a big step for us to improve a little,” Neal said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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