After a nine-game road trip, the Massachusetts baseball team is eager to play its first home game and hopes that its first win of the season follows. The Minutemen went winless on a Midwest trip that featured three series against Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and William & Mary.
“We’ve played some very good teams,” UMass coach Mike Stone said. “We knew it was going to be a great challenge, but if we handle it the right way and improve, we can turn this into a positive. We’ll find out what kind of competitors we’ve got.”
The Minutemen (0-9) get their next chance to record their first win today when they host their home opener against Hartford, a team also struggling to find its rhythm. The Hawks came into this week with three straight losses to Yale. In their last seven games, the Hawks are 1-6, after winning their first two games of the year.
UMass’ pitching staff has not faired well recently, allowing at least seven runs in seven of its nine games, including 17 in the last game against William & Mary. Stone attributes the struggles in his pitching staff to a lack of comfort on the mound.
“Our guys just need to get outings under their belts,” Stone said. “We need to get more innings and more game-like situations in. It’s our spring training.”
Isaac Oakley will get the start for UMass. Oakley has only one start this season, which came against Oklahoma State. He went three innings and surrendered seven earned runs as the Minutemen suffered their worst loss of the young season, 20-1.
However Stone believes that Oakley will show improvements in his next start.
“[Oakley] has the potential to be a very good pitcher,” Stone said. “He’s a fastball pitcher with a good curveball and changeup. He’s got to get comfortable on the mound and execute his pitches. We expect a better outing from him.”
While the pitching staff has struggled, the Minutemen offense showed signs of life last game by scoring 13 runs. It was the first time UMass put up double-digits in a game this year.
Outfielder Kyle Multner hit two home runs, going 4-for-5 out of the No. 9 spot in the lineup. Infielder Tom Conley and catcher Peter Copa had home runs of their own and Matt Gedman added four hits. Copa and Multner are tied for the team lead in home runs with two apiece.
Catcher Andy Drexel leads the Hawks with three home runs. Outfielder Andrew Siano has three stolen bases in four attempts. The Minutemen, on the other hand, are 1-for-3 in stolen base attempts.
Hartford faces UMass a day after its game to Boston College was postponed for a one-game showdown. This is the only time the Minutemen will play the Hawks this year. Last year both clubs met only once as well, on March 25 at Hartford. UMass won that game, 6-4.
While Stone holds no meaning towards that game, he does anticipate the same outcome.
“I never show up expecting to lose,” Stone said. “I expect our guys to be hungry. I expect them to come out and play their butts off.”
Pete Vasquez can be reached at email@example.com.