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May 13, 2017

UMass baseball gets shut out by in-state rival UMass Lowell Wednesday

Jong Man Kim/Collegian

Coming off a win Tuesday over Central Connecticut State where the Massachusetts baseball team scored 15 runs, Minutemen fans hoped UMass would duplicate that success Wednesday against cross-state rival UMass Lowell.

Instead, the Minutemen (7-18, 2-4 Atlantic 10) laid an egg.

UMass went from its second-best run output of the season to being inept at the plate as it fell to the River Hawks 6-0 at Earl Lorden Field.

Minutemen coach Mike Stone didn’t mince words after the loss.

“Lousy effort, four errors, three hits through eight. It’s terrible,” Stone said. “We didn’t do anything on the mound early and got behind. It was just a poor effort all around. [It’s] unfortunate, coming off yesterday’s win.”

Normally, when a pitcher only allows one hit, it’s considered an exceptional start. That was not the case Wednesday for UMass starting pitcher Connor Donahue.

Donahue struggled to find the zone through his outing. The Hampstead, New Hampshire native allowed four walks and four runs in this three innings of work.

“He pitched tentative,” Stone said. “He didn’t pitch with any confidence. I don’t understand it because he pitched well against VCU in relief on Sunday.”

With Donahue struggling with command on the mound, Stone turned to freshman right-hander Carter Knapek.

Knapek was impressive in five innings of work, keeping the UML (16-12, 5-3 America East) bats at bay for most of the middle part of the game. He gave up just three hits and struck out four, with his only major blemish being a pair of doubles in the fifth inning by Chris Sharpe and Steve Passatempo, which scored Sharpe.

“I just wanted to come and get some outs and throw some strikes,” Knapek said of his mindset coming into the game in the top of the fourth. “I wanted to let them put the ball in play and let the team make the plays behind us.”

The River Hawks though, kept the Minutemen bats at bay throughout the contest, something the Blue Devils failed at miserably Tuesday.

UML starting pitcher Connor Metelski paced his team with his play on the mound, going five innings, striking out five and only allowing two hits. Coming into the game, the freshman had only pitched 1.2 innings.

Once Metelski was taken out after the fifth inning, the River Hawks bullpen picked up right where he had left off. Kendall Pomeroy, Matt Kerin, Matt O’Connor and Jeffrey Peterson all pitched an inning of relief and permitted a combined three hits.

UMass had opportunities to crack the River Hawks pitching on multiple occasions Wednesday, even loading the bases in the seventh inning, but they couldn’t come through in the clutch spots. As a team, the Minutemen left 10 men on base throughout the game.

“We had opportunities to drive people in and didn’t get a hit,” Stone said. “We didn’t cash in. We have to have people step up and drive people in.”

Something that UMass has struggled with consistently throughout this season, and even past seasons, has been its inability to put the facets of pitching, defense and hitting together in the same game. The Minutemen were able to do that against CCSU Tuesday, but Wednesday was a much different story.

Knapek knows the importance of combining every aspect of the game together in a single game if his team wants to turn around a season that is quickly getting away from them.

“We have to do almost everything right to win ballgames,” Knapek said. “Once we get the hitting going on, the way it should be, I think we’re going to have a good chance to win a good amount of games.”

After playing two games in two days, UMass will not get a chance to rest as it prepares for a three-game series with A-10 opponent Saint Louis, starting Thursday afternoon.

“We have a pretty gritty, tough team. I think we’re going to come back and bounce back and play hard for the next three days,” Knapek said about the team needing to put Wednesday’s disappointing loss behind them.

First pitch of the first game of the series against the Billikens is set for 3 p.m. Thursday.

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

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