The Massachusetts baseball team held on for an 8-7 victory following a furious Harvard rally yesterday in the team’s first trip to the Beanpot title game since 2009.
The Minutemen (12-13, 6-3 Atlantic 10) seemed to have the game locked down early as the team carried an 8-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning.
Sophomore outfielder Adam Picard led the offensive attack in the first seven innings of play. He had three hits on the day, along with three runs scored, four RBIs and a monster homerun that was blasted off the left field scoreboard in the top of the third inning.
“He was swinging the bat well today he really let his hands work for him in his first three at-bats and he was one of the reasons we scored a bunch of runs early, and good thing we did,” said UMass coach Mike Stone of Picard.
The other key bat in the lineup on Wednesday was cleanup hitter and senior catcher Tom Conley.
The team leader added to the early Minutemen lead in the fifth inning with an RBI double. Conley was 2-2 at the plate and the senior has proved to be the most reliable bat in the Minutemen lineup this season as he’s knocked in nine runs.
The starter in the game for UMass was the team’s number four starter, freshman Conor LeBlanc, who pitched with confidence against the Crimson, after being honored as the Co-Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week.
“Conor’s role will be to be a weekday starter and it’s important to have a fourth arm to also be able to start the game and give the team a chance to win,” said Stone.
LeBlanc mowed down the Harvard batters in his six innings of work, as he struck out 11. He did not allow a run until the bottom of the seventh inning, where things started to get sketchy for the Minutemen.
“Conor really pitched well through six but he started to struggle with his command in the seventh allowing a bunch of hits and it was time to make a change,” said Stone.
LeBlanc gave up a leadoff double to Marcus Way and it appeared as if he was losing velocity on his fastball. He then gave up back-to-back singles as Stone felt it was time to hand the ball to freshman Tim Cassidy to put an end to the rally.
Cassidy started poorly by hitting the first batter he faced, J.T. Tomes. Cassidy then allowed a double to senior second basemen Jeff Reynolds that allowed two runs to score.
Following a sacrifice fly ball a RBI double by Jack Colton, closer Leif Sorenson would enter the game to try and protect a Minutemen lead that diminished to just two runs.
Sorenson got the next batter to ground out to third base to put an end to Harvard’s six-run rally, and the Minutemen headed into the eighth inning with a 8-6 lead.
After a scoreless top of the eighth inning for the Minutemen, the Crimson added another run in in their half of the inning.
Senior Kyle Larrow reached base when he ripped a single to center off Sorenson with just one out in the eighth inning.
Following another single by freshman first basemen Tanner Anderson, Sorenson struck out the next batter with his signature sinker pitch for the second out of the inning. The second basemen Reynolds came up to the plate and capitalized on a pitch that Sorenson left up in the zone with an RBI single that reduced the Minutemen’s lead to just one run.
The Minutemen would be blanked again in the top of the ninth inning by the Crimson relief pitcher Andrew Ferreira. It seemed as if the Harvard was destined to comeback in the game as the UMass bats were silenced since the seventh inning.
However, Sorenson would prove to be his reliable self again, as he forced three straight outs after allowing a leadoff single. The game ended when Ethan Ferriera flied out to UMass centerfielder Anthony Serino.
“It really wasn’t easy today. It was a struggle to finish. But we got it done today,”said Stone after the game.
The Minutemen now travel to Saint Louis to take on the Billikens at 5 p.m. on Friday.
Chris Corso can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @MDC_Corso.