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March 22, 2017

Three Minutemen earn Atlantic 10 honors

For the first time in the history of the Massachusetts baseball program, three Minutemen athletes swept weekly Atlantic 10 accolades.

Senior Bryan Leigh, junior Eric Fredette and freshman Ryan Cusick earned A-10 Pitcher, Player, and Rookie of the Week honors, respectively, based on their stellar performances on the diamond.

UMass (10-21, 7-8 A-10) claimed a series win over Saint Louis after sweeping its doubleheader on Saturday and split two games earlier in the week, losing to Central Connecticut on Tuesday, 17-12, and topping Harvard on Wednesday, 15-11.

Leigh (3-4), the right-hander from Somerset, Massachusetts, paced the Minutemen on the mound in its 12-0 win over the Billikens in Game 2 of the doubleheader. The hurler threw eight scoreless innings and registered a career-high 11 strikeouts, while allowing four hits and two walks.

This is Leigh’s second straight week earning A-10 Pitcher of the Week honors, as he tossed two complete games last week to earn his first wins of the season.

Since UMass coach Mike Stone returned the senior into the starting rotation, he has gone undefeated, pitching 26 innings with an earned run average of 1.73.

Leigh’s first start came on March 17 against Oklahoma as he took the loss after allowing five runs (three earned) over seven innings and fanning nine batters in an 8-4 loss. He now carries a 5.44 season ERA over 41.1 innings pitched (8.1 IP in relief) with 32 strikeouts.

Fredette led the Minutemen offense this past week, hitting .636 (14-for-22) with a double, two home runs, 10 runs batted in and seven runs scored.

“I know that I have great hitters behind me,” Fredette said to UMass Athletics after the doubleheader victories on Saturday. “I’m just trying to extend the inning, find a way on base.”

The second baseman drove in a career-high four RBIs against the Blue Devils and managed to get multiple hits in four out of five games on the week. Fredette highlighted his week with a game-tying three-run home run in Game 1 of the doubleheader against St. Louis to propel UMass to a 10-9 win.

The Connecticut native ranks third in the A-10 and first on the UMass team in hitting, boasting a .415 batting average. His current hitting streak of 13 games is the longest by a Minutemen player this season. In 30 games this season, Fredette has 49 hits, including four home runs and 22 RBIs with a slugging percentage of .568.

Cusick complimented Fredette in his leadoff position in the UMass lineup. The designated hitter had a .460 on-base percentage over the five-game stretch, hitting 9-for-22 while drawing two walks. He also scored a team-high nine runs on the week.

Cusick had his best game during the series clincher over the Billikens, going 3-for-5 and crossing home plate twice. It was Cusick’s walk in the eighth inning of Game 1 against Saint Louis that set the stage for the Minutemen comeback, and a leadoff double nearly led to a successful rally in the eighth inning of Friday’s game as well.

UMass outscored its opponents 52-31 on the week, going 3-2 and earning its third-straight series victory over conference foes.

Stone hopes that his team’s individual efforts will continue to materialize into wins as they close out the regular season schedule.

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

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