UMass visits Central Conn. for matinee

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Before playing at Fenway Park on Wednesday for the 18th annual Beanpot Tournament, the Massachusetts baseball team travels to New Britain, Conn., today to take on Central Connecticut State in a non-conference matchup.

Game time is set for 3 p.m. at Balf-Savin Field.

Today’s contest marks the fifth game in six days for the Minutemen (11-17, 6-9 Atlantic 10) and things won’t slow down much for the Maroon and White, as it plays in four of the next five days, as well.

The Blue Devils (15-10, 6-6 Northeast Conference) enter Tuesday’s action losers of three straight, all against Mount St. Mary’s – and all at home. Despite dropping three games on its home field last weekend, CCSU still sports a 9-4 record on Balf-Savin Field this season.

Since 1988, the Minutemen have faced the Blue Devils 26 times, with the Maroon and White taking command in the series – winning 19 of the contests. Last year was no different, as UMass took it to CCSU, 11-1, on May 10 in Amherst.

Junior captain Bryan Garrity had perhaps his best performance in a UMass uniform in that game, going 2-for-5 with five runs batted in. His co-captain this season, Travis Munsey, also enjoyed a nice day at the plate – with two hits, an RBI and a run scored.

But it was the Blue Devils that took the last matchup between the schools that was played in New Britain, Conn., (in 2005) winning 13-9. Senior Bryan Adamski had three hits in that contest, and then-freshman Ryan Franczek hit his second-career home run.

CCSU is currently having somewhat of a down season – it’s currently ranked fifth in the NEC – especially when you consider it has won three of the past five conference championships, including last season. The Blue Devils are led by coach Charlie Hickey, who in his seven full seasons at the helm has won three NEC Coach of the Year awards – including last year, when his team finished 32-18 overall and 15-7 within the conference.

This season the Blue Devils are undoubtedly powered by their pitching staff, which leads the eight-team NEC with a 3.55 ERA. In just 25 contests, CCSU starting pitchers have gone the distance in almost half of its games – spinning 11 complete games, including two for shutouts this season.

The rotation is paced by the trio of John Tesseyman, Ken Kerski and Evan Scribner, who have combined for an 11-6 record with a 2.73 ERA in 118.2 innings this season. The Big Three have thrown complete games in half of their 16 starts for the Blue Devils.

With a 5.71 team ERA, the Minutemen haven’t had as much success on the mound as CCSU, but have pitched better of late – especially this weekend against La Salle in what turned out to be a series victory.

With two impressive – and virtually identical – starts in his last two outings, junior Jim Cassidy has perhaps emerged as the staff ace, pacing the entire team in wins (4) and leading the starting pitchers in opponent’s batting average (.235). In his last 15.2 innings on the rubber – both wins – Cassidy has allowed just one earned run on 10 hits, while striking out 10.

The Minutemen staff faces a CCSU team that has hit .281 collectively, compared to the .255 team batting average for UMass. The Blue Devils are led at the plate by their three outfielders – Jak Kidd, Adam Taha and Jay Schillaci – who are among the team-leaders in virtually every offensive category. The three have combined to go 73-for-216 at the plate, good for a .338 collective average.

On the defensive side, the Blue Devils have been exceptional in the field, committing just 23 errors in their 25 games. Defense up the middle has been very strong, with just seven errors combined by their primary shortstop, Sean Salvatore, and second baseman, Matt Memoli, combined. UMass has been solid on defense this season, as well, with 40 errors in 28 contests.

UMass is led at the plate by sophomore Adam Tempesta, who leads the team in hitting with his .339 average. The second baseman sports a team-high .392 on-base percentage, and has reached base successfully in 27 consecutive games.

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]