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Leigh looks for first win against Boston College

Bryan Leigh will get a chance to pitch under his own circumstances today against Boston College, vying for his first win as a pitcher for the Massachusetts baseball team in two years.

Leigh has been moved back and forth from the starting mound to the bullpen in his three seasons as a Minuteman. With observably more success coming as a starter, UMass coach Mike Stone has found tomorrow’s game as a perfect opportunity to play him where he feels most at ease.

“He’s had more success in the past as a starting pitcher,” Stone said. “We’ve been wanting to give him a start, but it has not worked out, as far as rest is concerned, so he has an opportunity to do that [today].”

In five appearances in 2010, Leigh (0-4) started one game and was charged with a loss in his last four appearances. The senior looks to regain a confidence that he played with during his sophomore year.

In 2008, Leigh was utilized as a starter, going 3-4 with a 4.93 earned run average. Since then, he has been primarily a relief man, starting just three games his junior year while garnering four saves in 16 bullpen appearances with a 4.07 ERA.

“He’s got command of four pitches, he’s got good velocity, throws a lot of strikes and he’s an experienced pitcher,” Stone said. “We’re hoping he’s going to give us a real good outing.”

Leigh’s last win came as a starter against St. Bonaventure when he threw a career-high nine innings and fanned seven batters in a complete game three-hit performance two years ago yesterday. Since then, Leigh has been unable to record a win.

Leigh comes into today’s contest with an 11.74 ERA in 15.1 innings pitched (8.1 out of the bullpen).

In his last three outings, he blew leads of five runs against William & Mary and three runs against Connecticut. In between those games, Leigh pitched 3.1 innings of relief, keeping Charlotte off the board in a tied game until his final frame when he allowed three runs.

He started his only game this season against Oklahoma, recording a career-best nine strikeouts in seven innings. Leigh led the Minutemen into the bottom-half of the seventh with a 4-2 lead, but could not hold on. After getting the leadoff hitter to fly-out, he put the next two men on with a walk and a hit-batter and then threw a wild-pitch to allow them to advance. A groundout by the next batter cut into the lead and a home-run followed that to put the Sooners up for good.

Despite picking up the loss, Stone was pleased with his pitcher’s effort and hopes that the added rest will help when the starter takes the mound for the 3 p.m. game at Chestnut Hill.

“He didn’t pitch over the weekend,” Stone said. “It works out perfectly because he had a tune up on Sunday and a day of rest before his start.”

Leigh faces the BC team that has talented hitters, but seems inconsistent in its run productivity. Six Eagles have hit .290 or better and their team average is .282, yet, they average just fewer than six runs per game and have been hot and cold at times.

BC has registered 11 runs in its last three games, winning two against Maryland. Prior to that, the Eagles knocked in 31 runs in three contests against Clemson and Bryant and managed just 18 runs in five games before that.

“We expect to see a good ball club tomorrow and a real test,” Stone said. “We’re going with the pitcher that we feel has got the best chance of winning right now.”

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

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