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May 5, 2017

UMass baseball gets shut out in nonconference matchup with UConn

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(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

Back on April 19, the Massachusetts baseball team’s bats exploded offensively and earned a win 9-5 against Connecticut behind a combined eight runs batted in from outfielder Dylan Morris and catcher John Jennings.

Confidence was high that UMass (14-23, 7-10 Atlantic 10) would replicate similar success in the rematch Tuesday between the two rivals separated by a mere 49.1-mile drive. The Minutemen were coming off an 8-3 win in which they broke out for a seven-run eighth inning against Richmond.

UMass’ confidence was quickly deflated though as it ran into a strong pitching performance from UConn (25-22, 8-9 American Athletic Conference) starting pitcher Andrew Zapata and the Huskies’ bullpen. Zapata, along with Joe Rivera, Doug Domnarski and Devin Over, kept the Minutemen off the scoreboard in a 5-0 UConn win.

Zapata set the tone for the day on the mound as the junior went five innings only allowing one hit along the way. Huskies coach Jim Penders decided to pull Zapata after the fifth inning and the trio of relievers allowed just five hits in their four innings of work.

UMass had its opportunities to score some runs, leaving two runners on in the seventh and eigth innings, but failed to convert in either spot.

Minutemen assistant coach Nate Cole believed the team’s inability to come through offensively cost them the game.

“(UConn) was the team that put together a better game offensively and came through in spots that we didn’t come through in,” Cole said. “I still think we were putting together good at bats and competing, but unfortunately we couldn’t get it done with runners in scoring position and that is a big reason why we lost.”

Mike Geannelis got the start on the mound for the Minutemen, making his first start and ninth pitching appearance of the season.

Geannelis was solid through three innings, but ran into trouble in the fourth, giving up three hits and a walk that would put the Huskies ahead 3-0. The junior would surrender a home run to first baseman Bobby Melley in the fifth, before Tim Cassidy replaced him prior the start of the sixth inning.

Geannelis allowed four runs on six hits, while striking out four batters and walking two.

“(Geannelis) started the fourth inning with a lead-off single and it kind of compounded and made things tough on him,” Cole said. “In all honesty, they did a good job executing offensively in that inning off of him. We still think he competed well though; it was just that inning that gave him trouble.”

Cassidy surrendered his lone run in the sixth inning, and has been forced to adjust to a different role as he has exclusively come out of the bullpen since the game against Quinnipiac on April 27.

“(Cassidy’s) a redshirt senior so he’s has gone from being a starter and reliever many times for us,” Cole said. “Right now we need him to come out of the bullpen and give us quality innings and he has given us that. It’s nice to have someone who is so versatile and can fill those roles for the team.”

Only first baseman Cooper Mrowka finished with a multi-hit game for UMass, finishing with singles in the third and eighth innings. In the other dugout, Melley led the way for the UConn bats as he went 4-for-4, with the home run and a stolen base.

The Minutemen will be back in action on Wednesday as they take on in-state rival UMass Lowell in a battle for bragging rights within the UMass system.

Cole is hoping to see them come out with pride against the River Hawks to bounce back from Tuesday’s loss.

“It will be important to get back to playing well as we prepare for a big weekend series with the University of Rhode Island,” Cole said. “UMass Lowell being another state university, I hope the guys are excited and show up looking forward to competing against them and having a little pride in getting the win.”

Wednesday’s game is set for a 2 p.m. start at Lelacheur Park in Lowell.

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

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