UMass takes on Saint Joseph’s in A-10 play

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian staff

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History doesn’t often mean much on the baseball field, but Massachusetts certainly hopes it does this weekend against Saint Joseph’s.

The Minutemen have dominated the all-time series against the Hawks, compiling a 56-16 record dating back to 1974. The two teams didn’t meet last season, but UMass won the series (2-1) the previous year in Amherst.

This season’s series takes place in Philadelphia at Latshaw-McCarthy Field, where the Hawks (14-24, 6-9 Atlantic 10) have played much better baseball than they have on the road.

UMass (12-18, 5-10 A-10) currently ranks 12th in the conference, one spot behind the Saint Joe’s, George Washington and Fordham. With only four conference series left, the Minutemen need to consistently win games to crack into the top six in the conference – which is required to reach the A-10 postseason tournament.

“We just need to execute better and more consistently. I think if we do that we’ll be in good shape as we finish the last three weeks of the season,” said UMass coach Mike Stone.

Bryan Leigh draws the start on Friday for the Minutemen, while Mike Dicato and Mitchell Clegg will follow the next two days. Don Werner (senior right-hander), Dominic Favazza (freshman right-hander) and sophomore left-hander Randy Mower are the likely starters for the Hawks.

UMass enters the series having lost four of its last five games, including two of three against Charlotte, where it was outscored 50-17 in the series. In their most recent game, the Minutemen lost to Central Connecticut State, 9-7, in extra innings at Earl Lorden Field.

The Hawks have dropped all but one of their five series in the conference, with the only series win against Fordham. They enter this series having lost five of their last six games.

Saint Joe’s lost a lot of players to graduation after last season, and has mixed players in and out of the lineup this year. Fifteen different players have started at least 10 games this season for the Hawks.

“They are very young. I think they’re only playing two guys from last year’s team,” Stone said. “They are in transition where they’re trying to get a lot of guys experience.”

Many of the pitchers on the UMass staff are new, as well. Clegg and Leigh – both juniors – transferred here this year from different programs. Both have had some terrific starts, but the results haven’t consistently been there..

While the pitching has been a bit of a problem of late for the Minutemen, the offense is starting to take off as Ryan Franczek has broken out of his slump and Brian Baudinet has shown no signs of slowing down his torrid pace.

The main issue Stone is frustrated with is the team’s consistency.

“We just need to play well. Our pitchers have to pitch consistently well, our hitters need to hit in the clutch and we need to play solid defense,” he said. “We need to make things happen and compete like hell. That’s what we’re looking for.”

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]