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Stone willing to be patient with pitching

When you give up as many runs as the Massachusetts baseball team has in its first nine games, it’s hard to beat anyone, let alone some of the top competition in the country.

UMass has given up nearly 10 runs per game over its first nine contests including a season-high 20 against Oklahoma State in its third game of the season and 17 against William & Mary on Sunday.

To their defense, the Minutemen (0-9) have faced experienced teams with high winning percentages. UMass saw its first real action this week, playing against teams that had been competing since last month. Oklahoma State had a 4-2 record before hosting the Minutemen, No. 13 Oklahoma was 15-2 and William & Mary was 10-6, playing its ninth different team since it began its season exactly one month prior to Saturday’s season opener.

“It’s kind of like spring training for us,” UMass coach Mike Stone said. “It’s just a matter of comfortable with game experience and getting used to it. Hopefully they will improve with every outing.”

UMass has been up once this season going into the sixth inning and even then, it relinquished the lead by the next frame.

The Minutemen’s pitching goes into Wednesday’s game against Hartford with a 10.12 earned run average. Their starting pitching has accounted for eight of their nine losses and only twice have they lasted six or more innings. In total, the starters have lasted less than half of the innings pitched this season (40.1/81). Overall, the staff allows a .366 opponent batting average and has mustered 56 strikeouts as compared to 36 walks.

The UMass coaching staff has had some pitchers warrant their attention during the young season, but a starting rotation has not been set in stone.

Mike Gedman has been one of those bright spots for the Minutemen. In three appearances, Gedman (0-2) has a 5.52 ERA and thrown nine strikeouts in 14.2 innings pitched. Although his numbers are not startling, he pitched a complete game against Oklahoma in which he scattered four runs over eight innings to give his team a chance to win. However, UMass didn’t score more than two runs and Gedman incurred the loss.

In their nine games this season, the Minutemen got on the scoreboard first in two of those games and has scored a combined total of five runs over the first four innings, not including Sunday’s contest against William & Mary.

Their last time out, the Minutemen accrued an 8-1 lead on a huge third inning only to be outscored 8-0 in the next four.

Stone believes his team could have turned more double plays over its road trip (four), but his team still carries the glove well with a .980 fielding percentage and six errors, and that alone couldn’t account for the lopsidedness.

Stone and his players will have to address that issue and they hope to cure their scoring woes by tomorrow’s home opener against Hartford.

The Hawks have not been shy in the batter’s box this season registering about seven runs per game on over 11 hits per game.

Oakley (0-1) will take the mound for his second start of the season. Oakley lasted three innings against Oklahoma State, giving up nine runs (seven earned) on nine hits, recording two strikeouts and one walk.

“He pitched okay the last time and we have confidence in him,” Stone said.

Dan Gigliotti can be reached at dgigliot@student.umass.edu.

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