The Massachusetts baseball team began its season last Friday with four losses over three days, including two to Michigan and two to Sam Houston State at the Bearkat Invitational in Huntsville, Texas.
The Minutemen started off with the Wolverines (2-9), who began their season going winless in the Big East/Big Ten Challenge, playing against the likes of then-No. 21 Louisville, then-No. 22 Connecticut and St. John’s.
The scoring started in the second inning with RBI singles by Zach Johnson and Kevin Krantz and continued the following inning as the Wolverines tacked on two more runs, making it 4-0. Michigan would tack on its final run in the bottom of the seventh.
In his first at bat of the season, senior captain Eric Fredette gave the Minutemen (0-4) scoring hopes with a two-out double. The Minutemen squandered the opportunity and then went the next five innings without a hit. Finally in the seventh, UMass threatened with two singles by senior Peter Copa and freshman Dylan Begin, but Michigan kept it from scoring.
The eighth inning saw another threat from the Minutemen, this time resulting in a pair of runs. Freshman Josh Messier started things off with an infield single and sophomore Rich Graef reached on an error. Messier would score on a single by sophomore Anthony Serino while Graef would reach home on an RBI groundout by Copa.
That would be all, however, as Michigan’s Jake Engels ended the threat by getting Begin to fly out to end the inning. Engels would also pitch a scoreless ninth.
In their second game against the Wolverines, the Minutemen took an early lead but couldn’t hold on, resulting in an 11-6 loss.
Highlighting the increased offensive output was Copa, who finished with two hits and an RBI. Serino and Fredette also scored two each for UMass.
Taking the loss for the Minutemen was junior Leif Sorenson, who allowed six runs, four earned, on eight hits, two walks and two strikeouts. Sorenson also hit five batters.
UMass coach Mike Stone said that Michigan was a beatable team but the Minutemen just didn’t play well enough, adding that while moving forward, shaking the rust off and getting comfortable will prove important during the early stages of the season.
The first contest against Sam Houston State was a 9-1 loss which extended the Bearkats’ winning streak to seven games.
Copa tallied the only run for the Minutemen with a solo home run in the seventh inning.
Junior Glen Misho took the loss for UMass, going five innings, giving up six runs, four earned, on seven hits with three walks and one strikeout. Sophomore Dennis Torres pitched four innings of relief in his collegiate debut, allowing one earned run on four hits with four strikeouts and a walk.
In the last game of the weekend, much like the first, the Minutemen rallied late but ultimately came up short, losing 6-2.
Seniors Matt Gedman and Kyle Multner each finished with two hits for UMass.
“Sam Houston is an excellent ballclub,” said Stone, adding that the Bearkats were particularly tough on the base paths.
The team will look to bounce back this weekend when it heads to Winter Haven, Fla. for a two-week road trip that will include eight games, starting with Toledo (4-7) on Saturday and Bradley (6-4) on Sunday.
Toledo, who will have already been in Winter Haven for four games, has started off the week with a win over Yale and a loss to Xavier. Bradley, which, like UMass, will not have played since last Sunday, is coming off of two wins over Morehead State and Indiana.
Stone said that every aspect of UMass’ game needs to improve, notably its pitching and short game (bunting, base running). The pitching will improve with the players’ continued focus on strengthening their arms through long toss and having better command of the strike zone.
Eric Mansfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.