Minutemen win fifth straight

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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The Massachusetts baseball team took advantage of its few opportunities, while Vermont stranded 11 baserunners in yesterday’s 4-2 victory for the Minutemen at Earl Lorden Field.

Mitchell Eilenberg – making his first start of the season after 14 relief appearances – pitched six strong innings, surrendering one run, while striking out five. He allowed four hits and five walks. With the win, he improved his record to 2-0 and dropped his ERA to 3.75.

“He pitched great,” captain Bryan Garrity said. “He kept hitters off-balance and was hitting his spots. He was just throwing strikes and that’s the big thing with our pitching staff.”

“I was excited,” Eilenberg said, in reference to getting his first start of the season. “I started once last year, but I’ve had a lot of appearances as a reliever, so it was good to get one as a starter. It went pretty well, but I walked too many batters, but I got good defense to bail me out when I needed it.”

UMass (17-18, 9-9 Atlantic 10) scored all four of its runs in the fourth inning – and all with two outs – taking advantage of two Vermont (18-19) miscues in the field.

UVM starter Jeremiah Bayer retired Jim Cassidy to start the inning, but Adam Tempesta reached on the error by shortstop Jim Chapman and moved to second on a past ball. Following a Bryan Adamski fly out, Ryan Franczek delivered the game’s first run with an RBI single – dumping the 3-2 pitch to right field.

Franczek quickly advanced to third on a wild pickoff attempt, and Bill Rankin doubled him in following Bryan Garrity’s walk. With runners on second and third, freshman outfielder Mike Donato stepped in and stroked a two-run single up the middle – increasing the lead to 4-0.

“It just seems like over the past few weeks everyone’s just stepped up,” Garrity said, referring to the clutch hitting. “We’re starting to produce, which is good to see. We didn’t have that at the beginning of the year. People are really taking it upon themselves to come through in clutch situations.”

Brandon Miles came in to pitch for Bayer, allowing the single to Donato – but it was Bayer who was charged with all four runs in the inning. None of the runs were earned, and Bayer actually improved his ERA on the season to 9.00 – in what was also his first start of the season.

Eilenberg maneuvered his way out of jams throughout the outing, making quality pitches and ensuring UMass maintained its lead. The Catamounts left eight men on base in Eilenberg’s six innings, including two in the second and three in the third.

UMass coach Mike Stone was more than pleased with the effort from his sophomore hurler, but was a bit disappointed with the rest of the team.

“Other than the fact that Mitchell pitched very well, I’m not at all impressed with our performance,” Stone said. “I felt like we were just going through the motions a little bit. I was disappointed with our effort today.”

Vermont started to get back into the game in the sixth inning, scoring a run off Eilenberg on Brad Currier’s RBI groundout. They scored again in the seventh – this time off reliever Beau Hodges – after cleanup hitter Jeff Heppner roped a double to deep right, scoring Kyle Henry, who reached on a single.

Hodges settled down and pitched a quick eighth inning, and Mike Dicato came in for the ninth inning – shutting the door on the Catamounts, while registering his first save of the season.

“We’re starting to get on a roll, and everyone is gaining confidence right now,” Garrity said. That’s five [wins] in a row for us. It’s the longest streak we’ve had I think in the three years I’ve been here.”

Yesterday’s victory gave UMass 60-career wins over Vermont, dating back to 1900, when these teams first met. The Catamounts aren’t far behind, having won 51 times.

UVM had entered yesterday’s game on a hot streak, winning eight of its last 10 contests, including three straight. Yesterday marked the first game of a seven-game road trip for the Catamounts, while the Minutemen will stay in Amherst for eight of their next nine games.

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]