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February 10, 2016

Minutemen take first series of the season

Just a few hours after losing to Richmond, the Massachusetts baseball team rebounded to win the deciding game of a three-game series, 6-3, on Sunday afternoon at Earl Lorden Field.

Jared Freni got the win for the Minutemen (4-18, 3-6 Atlantic 10), by pitching eight innings in which he struck out 13 Spiders’ hitters while allowing only three runs.

UMass coach Mike Stone called Freni’s outing an outstanding performance. “He just battled through a couple of tough innings and really went a long way,” Stone said. “He had some great short innings when he needed them to stay in the game.”

It was a major accomplishment for the senior and co-captain of the team, who had struggled in his first four starts, allowing a total of 25 runs in 21 innings. However, he was able to make adjustments in this game after laboring in his first three innings.

“[Freni] got in a good rhythm and was more fluid,” Stone said. “That makes a big difference as far as his command is concerned. It was good to see he made those adjustments.”

Glen Misho pitched a scoreless ninth inning to earn the save against Richmond (15-15, 3-6 A-10). It was the first save of the season for the Minutemen.

“[Freni] had thrown a lot of pitches and at a certain point you have to give it to your bullpen,” Stone said. “Fortunately, [Misho] came in did a nice job finishing up. He was throwing the ball hard.”

The offense collected six runs, all scored by different players. Eight of the nine starters had base hits, and no one had more than one run batted in. Despite a balanced effort, Stone thinks improvements still need to be made.

“We left a lot of people on base and in scoring position,” Stone said. “Sometimes, all you need to do is take a good short swing and drive the ball into the outfield and we just didn’t do that. We could’ve scored a lot more runs if we executed better in those situations.”

The series began on Saturday after Friday’s game was postponed. The first game of the doubleheader ended with the Minutemen walking off with the victory in 13 innings.

Senior Mike Donato was hit by a pitch to begin the bottom of the 13th inning. After a walk to Brian Baudinet, junior Peter Copa hit a deep fly ball to left center. The runners tagged up with Donato heading to third base. He was able to score the winning run after the Richmond shortstop mishandled the ball on the relay.

Sophomore Leif Sorenson pitched six effective innings of one-run ball in relief to get the win. His effort followed starting pitcher Nick Serino who went seven strong innings, striking out 10 batters.

“[Serino and Sorenson] pitched very well,” Stone said. “That was a good one to win, it made a difference for us. It was a battle all the way through and everyone was pulling for each other, so it was great.”

The middle game was played in the span of two days. Action was suspended on Saturday due to darkness, and completed in the early afternoon on Sunday. Despite losing the middle game of the series, the Minutemen earned their first series win of the season.

“To get on the right track, to take a series is really important,” Stone said. “It was great the way we responded as a team [after losing the middle game]. We were able to bounce back. I think we can play better. I really do.”

Stone hopes his team is able to carry this series victory into what he calls a tough week ahead.

“We played a good home series and came out at the top end of that,” Stone said. “That’s got to give you a lot of confidence going forward.”

Senior Bryan Leigh will start against Boston College on Tuesday. It will be his first start since March 17 against Oklahoma. UMass will then host Northeastern on Wednesday before traveling to Rhode Island for another three-game series.

Pete Vasquez can be reached at pvasquez@student.umass.edu.

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