Looking to build on its latest success against Atlantic 10 opponents, the Massachusetts baseball team will host Saint Louis for a three-game series this weekend, beginning this afternoon.
The Minutemen (8-20, 5-7 A-10) alternated wins and losses in their last six games, but did take two consecutive series from conference opponents.
“We’ve gotten good pitching,” UMass coach Mike Stone said. “That’s really key. It starts with pitching and defense.”
The Billikens (19-19, 7-5 A-10) have lost four out of their last five games since sweeping Temple at home, falling by two or less runs in each contest.
“They’re a strong team,” Stone said. “They’ve got a couple of real good hitters who hit a bunch of home runs and a solid pitching staff, so I expect to see a real good ballclub.”
The Billikens sit in a tie for fourth place in the A-10 standings with four other teams including Rhode Island, which UMass defeated on the road last weekend, two games to one.
The Minutemen are locked for ninth place with Dayton. Stone hopes to use this series against SLU as a chance to move up in the standings.
“We can make a move, but we have to take care of business first,” Stone said. “You can’t be thinking about the standings while you’re trying to play a game. You just need to focus [on the game] and the standings will take care of themselves afterwards.”
Both UMass and the Billikens faced Saint Joseph’s earlier this season, and lost two of the three games in the series.
St. Louis is anchored offensively by infielder Jon Myers and first baseman Danny Brock. Both players have combined for 28 of their team’s 48 home runs. Over the course of the season, the Billiken pitching staff has given up 29 total home runs.
Mike Gedman,who homered twice in UMass’ 15-11 victory over Harvard, leads the Maroon and White with five home runs on the season.
“We’ll have to see how the games go whether or not we decide to challenge them or pitch around them,” Stone said. “It’s just a matter of understanding the situation. Our ballpark is a good hitter’s park. You just need to be aware of those situations before you get hurt by [Myers and Brock]. We can’t allow that.”
Brock and Myers both hold team highs for UMass, with a .391 batting average and 53 runs batted in. Both players have started all 38 games of the season, along with outfielder J.D. Dunn who leads the team with 13 stolen bases.
Facing the Billikens batting lineup will be the pitching efforts of Nick Serino on Friday, followed by Jared Freni on Saturday and Bryan Leigh on Sunday.
Last year, UMass took the series, 2-1, over Saint Louis in mid-April. The starting pitchers for the Minutemen competed in 25 of the total 27 innings of the series.
Serino held the Billikens hitless through six innings and struck out seven through his 7.1 innings of work. Freni threw a complete game giving up just one run. Leigh made an appearance during the series, allowing two hits and earning a strikeout after less than an inning of play.
Myers was not present in the series due to a season-ending injury that occurred only 14 games into the season.
After the Saint Louis series, UMass will host Siena for one game on Tuesday before taking on A-10 rival George Washington, for three games.
Pete Vasquez can be reached at email@example.com.