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Harvard tacks on five runs against Carter Knapek in the freshman’s first start for UMass baseball

Jong Man Kim/Collegian

A five-run third inning for Harvard propelled the Crimson to a 7-3 win over the Massachusetts baseball team in the first round of the Beanpot tournament.

Left-handed freshman pitcher Brooks Knapek has been one of Minutmen coach Mike Stone’s go-to starters since the first series of the season against Elon. However, Wednesday afternoon, Stone elected to go with Knapek’s twin brother Carter.

Stone cited Carter Knapek’s outing against Morehead State, where he inherited a bases loaded, no out jam, as a reason he decided to go with the righty against Harvard (11-12, 0-4 Ivy League). The Eagles eventually scored three runs, though all of them were credited to Brooks Knapek, not Carter. In that outing, Carter Knapek only allowed two hits.

Carter Knapek, a right-handed pitcher, has made four appearances out of bullpen for UMass (6-14, 2-1 Atlantic 10) this season and had a 5.19 earned run average entering Wednesday’s contest. His start against the Crimson was his first of the season and comes just a couple of games after he relieved his brother Brooks for an inning against the Eagles.

It has been an up-and-down season for Carter Knapek. A couple appearances against Bucknell and George Washington, where he gave up a total of five runs, helped balloon his ERA to the 5.19 that it was when he entered his first start.

Despite the high ERA, Carter Knapek’s first two innings were solid. The freshman pitcher retired the first six batters he faced, three of whom went down on strikes.

The third inning, however, was not as clean. After striking out John MacLean to start the inning, Knapek allowed three straight singles followed by a hit batter, a double and a triple. The damage amounted to five runs and marked the end of Knapek’s first collegiate start.

“The first two innings were great and he struggled in the third,” Stone said. “Five hits in a row, four hits and a hit batter, and that really set the tone for the inning unfortunately.”

Knapek, who did not walk anyone, started to miss his location in the third, leading to the breakout inning for the Crimson.

“He just left some balls over the middle of the plate and it was more that than anything else,” Stone said. “He kept the ball down earlier in the first two innings and fooled the hitters. His changeup looked great and he looked like he was cruising and then he just left some balls over the plate and got in trouble with that.”

Even though it was Knapek’s first start of the season, Stone thought he kept his composure, though he ran into trouble when he began pitching from the stretch.

“He looked composed,” Stone said. “I think when he went from the stretch he probably left some balls over the plate like I said. But you know he hasn’t had the experience yet and we’re just getting his feet wet and he struggled a little bit more when he was pitching out of the stretch.”

The five-run third is a part of a troubling trend for the Minutemen, who have struggled limiting the damage in innings where they give up runs. UMass was unable to come back from the five-run third inning despite five strong innings from the UMass bullpen. Casey Aubin allowed only two runs, both in the seventh inning, and Connor Donahue pitched a perfect frame in the eighth.

Riding a five-game losing streak, their longest of the season, the Minutemen are looking forward to finally playing their first home series against Virginia Commonwealth. Given the few home games UMass is scheduled compared to away games, anytime they can avoid traveling and play in Amherst is a relief.

“I hope so, we’re looking forward to it,” Stone said of returning to Earl Lorden Field. “Everyone should be really excited about playing at home and hopefully the field will be ready and we can take advantage of playing at home.”

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

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