As of late, the Massachusetts baseball team has pitched its way to wins.
Considering that at the beginning of the season there was no sure-fire ace, no player has helped the rotation more than junior Dennis Torres, who’s deep performances have helped carry UMass during the last couple of weeks.
In his most recent start last Thursday, Torres tossed seven shutout innings in a 2-1 victory to open the Atlantic 10 series against La Salle. The win helped lift the Minutemen to 3-1 in conference play.
Torres is 2-2 on the year, holding a 2.08 ERA with 26 strikeouts over 39 innings of work. He’s been very difficult to score on as of late, allowing one earned run over his last 15.2 innings.
Torres, who walked onto the team during the fall of 2010, is a shoe-in at this point for the No. 1 spot in the rotation.
He will be back on the mound Friday to open up a three-game set against Saint Joseph’s.
Serino coming to life
Production out of the three and four spots in a lineup is essential for success.
Junior Anthony Serino, who has sat in the number three spot for a majority of the season and has underperformed for most of it, is finally coming to life for UMass.
Over his last three games, Serino has hit .462 (6-for-13), while also driving in a pair of RBIs.
“He’s starting to feel a good comfort level at this point,” said UMass coach Mike Stone of Serino, who began 2011 in the same fashion, hitting .111 through the first week of April.
He finished the year hitting a substantially better .269, with 17 RBIs and 21 walks.
Although he is still hitting a disappointing .257, the last couple of games represent a better indication of where Serino’s numbers are heading.
“Some guys just need a little while to adjust and get comfortable hitting on a regular basis,” said Stone. “He’ll just make those small adjustments and continue to improve.”
Bottom line: Serino’s batting average continues to rise. Look for Serino to start righting the ship and for his best games to start coming soon.
1-run games the difference
This season, UMass has had its share of nail-biters.
One-run games can tell the tale of a team at season’s end, and so far, the Minutemen have shown great poise – going 6-6 this year in 12 one-run affairs.
What’s more remarkable isn’t that they’ve gone 5-1 over the last six games decided by one run, or that they swept their past series, all three games resulting in a one-run margin.
It’s the way they’ve done so – behind great pitching performances, and game-tying and winning runs deep into the later innings.
One run games can not just decide games, but seasons, and UMass is making evidence.
What’s on tap
For the Minutemen, here’s who to look for on the mound this week.
On Tuesday, freshman Conor LeBlanc will take the hill for just his second career start against Northeastern. LeBlanc allowed two earned runs off six hits and one walk over 6.1 innings against Connecticut in a no-decision. Besides those two, the freshman hasn’t allowed any runs, as he’s tossed 11 innings this spring.
Friday, Torres will start for UMass, looking for his third win (2-2) of the season. The junior has fanned 16 batters over his last three starts, going 2-0 during that stretch.
Senior Glen Misho will take the bump Saturday in the second game of the series, looking to build on his last three outings, where he’s allowed five earned runs and has struck out 15.
Fellow Senior, Joe Popielarczyk, will finish the series on Sunday. Popielarczyk is coming off a streak of three consecutive quality starts, while earning victories against Old Dominion (Mar. 19) and Fordham (Mar. 25) earlier this spring.
Scott Cournoyer can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @MDC_Cournoyer.