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UMass splits mid-week games against NDSU and Harvard

(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts baseball team continued its Spring Break road trip in Florida with two games against North Dakota State and Harvard, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Minutemen (4-5) split the two matchups, defeating NDSU 9-5 and falling to the Crimson 8-2.

UMass falls to Harvard

Riding a three game winning streak, the Minutemen were one game away from balancing out their 0-4 start to the season. Designated as the away team at the neutral site, UMass jumped on Harvard starting pitcher Hunter Bigge for two runs in the first inning highlighted by Cooper Mrowka’s seventh run batted in of the season.

Following a first inning where he gave up two runs on three hits, Bigge settled down and gave the Crimson (7-3) five more innings of shutout, two-hit baseball.

“There pitcher was probably throwing more strikes,” UMass coach Mike Stone said of Bigge. “He got behind in the count early to a few hitters in the first inning and then he started to settle down and just got ahead in the count.”

UMass starter Connor Donahue did not experience the same success. Donahue lasted only four innings and allowed five runs, three of which came in the bottom of the fourth inning.

The Crimson had already tied the game at two in the previous inning and started off the fourth with back-to-back hits from Matt Rothenberg and Chad Minato. Minato later stole second to put runners on second and third with one out. A couple of batters later, Jake Allen ripped a double to score the pair Allen would reach third on an error and eventually come into score.

This was just one instance where an error cost UMass a run.

“We misplayed some balls which was unfortunate,” Stone said. “But there was another ball that was a pop up in the infield that should have been caught but it ended up not touching anyone’s glove so that wasn’t an error but that should have been an out too and that would have saved us two runs.”

UMass tops NDSU

UMass’ game against NDSU (7-10) marked the first of five straight games the Minutemen would play as part of their tour in Florida. In order to keep his the arms of his pitchers fresh, Stone elected to go to his bullpen early and often against the Bison.

Starting pitcher Casey Aubin went only three innings and gave up three runs before Stone pulled him in favor of his bullpen. Scott Hovey, Kevin Hassett and closer Christian Rosati combined for six innings, giving up a total of only two runs.

“We had a number of guys who pitched in that game who were coming off some soreness and we just wanted to keep a low pitch count with those guys starting with Casey Aubin,” Stone said.

“You can’t expect guys to go nine especially early in the season. We just needed our guys to come in and start doing well at the end of the game.”

With the bullpen keeping the Bison in check, UMass had offensive production up and down their lineup led by Mike Geannelis with two RBI’s and Mrowka who collected an RBI on three hits.

Mrowka, a sophomore first baseman batting .345 this season, has already driven in seven RBI’s, just four off of his total last season. His production has provided the Minutemen lineup with decent protection as of late.

“He looks much more patient at the plate,” Stone said. “He’s hitting in the five spot or the four and he is able to handle all pitches, breaking balls, off-speed pitches and fastball. He’s just progressed as a hitter. He just looks like a much more mature hitter than he was last year which is great.”

UMass will conclude its road trip in Florida with a three game series against Bucknell Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Philip Sanzo can be reached at psanzo@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Philip_Sanzo.

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