No place like home

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Courtesy Media Relations

After two previous postponements, the Massachusetts baseball team will play its first home game of the season today against the Hartford Hawks. The first pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Earl Lorden Field.

Due to weather and field conditions, the Minutemen (4-7, 1-2 Atlantic 10) had to postpone home games against Boston College on March 14 and Sacred Heart yesterday. UMass coach Mike Stone – already the all-time winningest coach in school history – is on the cusp of registering his 500th win at his alma mater. Stone will be looking for win No. 499 as the coach of the Maroon and White against a familiar foe in the Hartford Hawks (1-12).

These teams met last year with the Hawks prevailing, 6-2, in Hartford’s home opener. The game, played on March 29, was amidst a 17-game road trip for the Minutemen.

UMass fell behind early in that contest – and for good – after back-to-back homers by Hawks designated hitter Erik Price and first baseman Derek Litke off freshman starter Tom Cote in the second inning.

The Minutemen’s bats came alive in the ninth inning, trailing 6-0, but they could only muster two runs after loading the bases with nobody out. Outfielder Travis Munsey hit into a double play and Derrick Durepo struck out looking to end the comeback attempt.

Even with Hartford’s win in 2006, the Maroon and White still hold the edge, 16-8, in all-time meetings between the teams. Despite the edge in the series, Stone’s last win over the Hawks was in 2003 in a 9-2 decision.

Losers of its last six games, Hartford is having a nightmare of a season in the early going. The Hawks have been outscored 122-35 (9.4 runs per game compared to 2.7) in their 13 games thus far. The team is hitting .210 collectively, while opponents are hitting at a .356 clip. Compounding the hitting problem is the fact that Hartford batters have only drew 28 walks – well less than double the 67 free passes issued by Hawks pitchers.

Pitching has been an even bigger issue. Hartford’s 10.78 ERA is more than quadruple that of the opposition (2.64). In 97 ? innings on the mound, Hawks pitchers have allowed 209 hits plus walks (2.14 WHIP). On the flip side, the opposition has thrown 109 innings, and has only allowed 110 hits plus walks (1.01 WHIP).

Compare all that to last season, where the Hawks went just 11-38 overall. Even then, Hartford’s offense hit for a .255 average and the pitching staff finished with a 6.72 ERA.

Meanwhile, the Minutemen enter today’s action on a much better note. UMass took two of three from conference opponent Temple over the weekend, and will be looking to keep up that momentum in preparation for a three-game road series against the Charlotte 49ers this weekend.

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected] Log on to the Daily Collegian’s sports blog at dailycollegiansports.blogspot.com for more coverage of all the UMass sports.