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Minutemen offense key for struggling pitching staff

With 40 runs in its past three games, the Massachusetts baseball team has sparked its offensive side.

The Minutemen (8-20, 5-7 Atlantic 10) watched their bats ignite last Sunday, when they won the rubber game against Rhode Island, 13-1. Since then, UMass plated 27 runs in two games, going 1-1.

“We’re taking good, quality swings and we’re balanced in the batter’s box,” UMass coach Mike Stone said. “Sometimes we manufacture runs and other times we just swing the bats. It’s hard to put your finger on it sometimes but it’s starting to come around more [lately].”

In their game on Wednesday, the Minutemen offense scored 15 runs in a four-run victory over Harvard. Every UMass batter registered at least one hit, including senior Mike Gedman who went 2-for-4 with two home runs and four runs batted in.

“Sometimes it has to do with pitching,” Stone said. “We didn’t see a whole lot of quality pitching these last few days.”

Eric Fredette transferred to UMass from Vermont, and currently leads all UMass players with a .387 batting average and a .459 on base percentage. Fredette primarily bats second in the lineup, and consistently presents opportunities for the team to drive in runs. On Tuesday, however, Fredette proved he can send in runs as well, registering a career-high four RBIs in UMass’ 17-12 loss against Central Connecticut.

“We try to stay inside the ball, stay balanced with our weight distribution and stay soft on the front foot,” Stone said. “We have a pregame batting practice routine where everybody tries to hit the ball to the opposite field first and [after that], they can swing away based on where the pitch is.”

The lineup has remained virtually the same throughout the season, except for the addition of sophomore Alex Fisher, who has recently put himself in Stone’s good graces.

“Fisher is getting in there and that’s a great story,” Stone said. “He stayed back and didn’t travel with us [earlier on] but he worked hard and improved and he’s done a great job for us.”

Fisher has started in eight games so far this season, batting .324 while scoring eight runs and batting in seven.

Stone believes that every player in the lineup should follow an approach that they are most comfortable with.

“On certain days, certain players feel more comfortable when they’re not thinking but reacting,” Stone said. “Sometimes you need to take a pitch so you’re not jumping out at the ball. It’s a day-to-day thing. Baseball is a tough game and it’s hard to get into a groove.”

Steve Levine can be reached at slevine@student.umass.edu.

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