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UMass baseball bullpen getting stronger as the season goes on

(Jong Man Kim/ Daily Collegian)

Sunday’s first game of a doubleheader against La Salle was not the finest outing for starting pitcher Brooks Knapek’s. After only an inning, Massachusetts baseball coach Mike Stone pulled the freshman, in favor of Casey Aubin, out of the bullpen. Four days removed from his start against Northeastern at Fenway Park, Aubin gave the Minutemen six innings of work in relief.

Despite having to piece together seven innings with Aubin and Kevin Hassett in Sunday’s first game, the bullpen was given a rest in the second game, courtesy of a Mike Geannelis complete game shutout.

“Well it was big since we did 18 innings all in one day,” Stone said. “The last two times out he’s given us complete games and has been real key for us.”

Aubin is just one piece of a bullpen that, according to Stone, has gotten better as the season has gone on.

“They are giving us more quality innings and so we have more options now,” Stone said. “Because they’ve pitched better, they’ve given us more quality innings and we feel more confident. I think they’re getting more confident as they pitch more.”

When UMass (11-22, 5-7 Atlantic 10) take on Quinnipiac (14-23, 7-8 MAAC) Wednesday afternoon at Earl Lorden Field, Stone will look to get five pitchers some work, starting with Hassett. Following Hassett will be Scott Hovey, Connor Donahue, Ryan Venditti and Christian Rosati.

Aubin will get another day of rest when the Minutemen take on the Bobcats. Although his stat line says he pitching to a 6.06 earned run average, the sophomore right-handed pitcher gives UMass an average of a little more than three innings per relief appearance. He eats up innings more than any other bullpen reliever and has provided a couple of spot starts for the Minutemen.

“I think our guys are gaining more confidence and they’re getting a chance to pitch more and have been pitching better and he’s a perfect example of that,” Stone said of Aubin. “He gave us some real strong innings against La Salle and also did a great job at Fenway Park against Northeastern. So once they pitch well, pitch more, they’re gaining more confidence and obviously pitching better.”

While Aubin has been primarily used in early to middle innings, Stone has been comfortable with turning to Rosati in the later frames.

The freshman pitcher’s earned run average ballooned after a poor outing against Morehead State where he gave up five runs in less than inning. In that game on March 31, Rosati’s ERA jumped from 2.79 to 6.97. It has been progressively decreasing in each outing since, following two innings of three hit, one run ball against La Salle, his ERA now sits at 5.40.

Having made the most appearances of any UMass reliever, Rosati has proved he can handle late-game situations.

“I think he’s done a great job, he hasn’t pitched like a freshman,” Stone said. “He’s got a real good temperament and he’s a bull dog out there. He’s got some good stuff, real good stuff. He throws hard. We don’t really consider him as a freshman right now because he’s pitched in so many important situations and done very well for us.”

With rain in the forecast for much of the week, it is possible that Wednesday’s game against Bobcats will be postponed. Following the mid-week game, UMass will host Dayton for a three-game series this weekend.

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

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