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March 23, 2017

Ryan Moloney pitches seven scoreless innings as UMass baseball takes series opener from Fordham

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(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

For the first four and half innings at Earl Lorden Field Friday, it looked as if the Massachusetts baseball team and Fordham would be caught in a pitcher’s duel that would last all game.

UMass (12-19, 5-8 Atlantic 10) was up 1-0, while Minutemen pitcher Ryan Moloney and Rams’ (22-22, 8-5 A-10) pitcher Kirk Haynes Jr. showed no signs of breaking on the mound. Everything would depend on which right-hander would crack first.

UMass would answer that question emphatically as they broke through – scoring five runs in the fifth inning. They would never look back as they went on to win 8-1, taking the first game of the three-game series.

Moloney would continue his strong pitching performance, ending his day going seven innings, giving up no runs and four hits – good enough for his second victory of the season, improving his record to 2-4.

Minutemen coach Mike Stone was happy to see the junior have a strong start after Moloney hadn’t pitched his best in recent games.

“I thought (Ryan) pitched great today. He gave us a lot of momentum going into the later innings,” Stone said. “He was much stronger and sharper than he was in the last couple outings. That really set the tone for us today.”

“I tried to attack them first with my fastball and mix in my slider and I thought that worked pretty well for me today,” Moloney added. “They were helping me out a little by chasing some pitches, but I think it was a mixture of many things that led to having success on the mound today.”

The fifth inning offensive surge by UMass gave Moloney added confidence to settle in midway through the game.

“It was incredible,” he said. “Pitching with a lead, you can go out there and have more confidence to throw what you want and it allows you to settle down. It’s huge to get a lead and this is a big weekend for us, so it was good to set the tone.”

The Minutemen’s offense scattered nine hits in the game, led by centerfielder Dylan Morris, who had tallied three hits. Second baseman Ryan Lever and designated hitter Hunter Carey both homered in the game as well.

Lever, in particular, has stood out for UMass in recent games. Since becoming the full-time second baseman during the Harvard game on April 20, Lever has had three multi-hit games.

Lever was taken aback by the moment of hitting his first collegiate home run.

“Words can’t describe that first home run,” Lever said. “I just saw a fastball and took it the other way and it went over the wall.”

Stone has been impressed with his freshman second baseman’s performance since becoming a starter

“Those plays he made up the middle are major league plays,” Stone said. “He had that homer and another RBI, so it was a great day for him. We expect similar things from him going forward.”

Friday’s win was especially important with Fordham coming into the game tied for third in the A-10. With the season entering its last month, the Minutemen will need all the wins they can get in hoping to continue to gain ground in the standings and qualify for the A-10 tournament.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to have a chance to knock off a team in the upper part of the standings,” Stone said. “We need to take advantage of every weekend. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but to get off to good start like this is huge.”

“We know that we can beat anyone in our conference,” Moloney added. “We’re not really worried about who’s on top and who’s on the bottom.”

Game two of the weekend series is set for Saturday, with the first pitch slated for 1 p.m.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at aaucoin@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @aaucoin34.

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