UM wins critical A-10 series against Billikens

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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It didn’t take four hours or 15 innings to decide things this time.

The Massachusetts baseball team needed just nine innings yesterday, beating Saint Louis 2-1 to capture the series against the Billikens. The victory for UMass came after Saturday’s marathon 4-2 loss and Friday’s 5-1 win.

Despite the series victory, the Minutemen (20-23, 12-12 Atlantic 10) still find themselves in the seventh spot in the conference, and one spot out of a playoff berth. UMass is within one game of both St. Bonaventure (12-11 A-10) and Rhode Island (13-11 A-10). The Maroon and White have just three games remaining in the A-10 schedule, next weekend on the road against Xavier.

Sophomore starter Tim Comiskey maneuvered his way out of jams in key spots, pitching 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball. The right-hander picked up his third win of the season, allowing three hits and seven walks, while striking out four. Fellow sophomore Mike Dicato pitched the last 2 1/3 innings for the Minutemen, allowing one run on one hit, in what was his second save of the year.

“We were hoping that somebody would step forward and give us a good effort, and he did,” UMass coach Mike Stone said, referring to Comiskey’s outing. “He pitched better than he has all season, and we needed that. If we didn’t get that we would’ve been in trouble.”

The Minuteman offense struggled against Billikens’ (14-36, 10-13 A-10) starter Ryan Bird, managing only six hits and one walk – but the two runs they scored were all that was needed. In the first inning, shortstop Lou Proietti singled, stole second and went to third on a past ball. Ryan Franczek followed with a walk and Adam Tempesta drove in Proietti on a fielder’s choice to second.

UMass registered its other run in the sixth, with a little two-out rally. After Proietti and Franczek grounded out, Tempesta singled to center and stole second base. Bryan Adamski followed with a double down the left-field line, scoring Tempesta for what would be the game-winning run.

“It wasn’t much, but it was timely,” Stone said, regarding his offense. “I know we can do better, but for some reason [on Sunday and Saturday] we just didn’t swing it. The hit by Adamski was big, and the run in the first by Lou got us started.”

The Billikens had chances against Comiskey, but failed to convert – leaving eight runners on base. Their best chance came in the sixth as Comiskey lost his command and walked the bases loaded, bringing up first baseman Ryan Johnson. But Comiskey settled down at just the right time, inducing Johnson to fly out to right.

“He just kept his composure,” captain Bryan Garrity said. “He found ways to get batters out when we needed it, and that was huge for us.”

Comiskey walked the leadoff man again in the seventh, but got a key groundball off the bat of Ziggi Moore that Proietti made a nice play on to turn the double play. The next batter singled and that was the end of Comiskey’s day, as Dicato came in and held on for the save.

SLU scored its only run of the game in the ninth, when Greg Rodgers laced a home run to right field to lead off the inning and pull the Billikens within one. But Dicato retired the next three hitters to preserve the win.

“We got great pitching,” Garrity said. “You could tell the pitchers really wanted to win this game, and that’s why we won.”

Bird was the tough-luck loser for the Billikens, pitching a complete game in the loss. In eight innings, the senior right-hander allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits and one walk. He struck out four in the afternoon and his record dropped to 0-5.

Even with the tough loss on Saturday, Stone was pleased with the way the series turned out.

“I think we struggled a little bit to play our best this weekend, but we still managed to take the series,” he said. “And you got to feel good about that.”

Senior Day is up next for the Minutemen, as the team’s seven seniors (Proietti, Travis Munsey, Bill Rankin Bryan Adamski, Chris Lloyd, Rory McDonald and Frank McPherson) will be honored prior to Tuesday’s home game against Quinnipiac.

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]