Stone, Minutemen drop another heartbreaker in 9th

Mitchell Eilenberg stood on the mound after giving up two two-run home runs in the ninth inning, with a look of disbelief on his face. The scoreboard read 11-9; the Massachusetts baseball team was not ahead.

Eilenberg finished the inning, but three short outs later, Connecticut completed the sweep of the season series against the Minutemen.

‘Sickening,’ was the word that UMass coach Mike Stone used to describe the feeling of faltering late in ‘the 12th of game that we’ve lost late in the game that we should’ve won.’

After four lead changes in the game, UMass (8-17, 2-7 Atlantic 10) entered the ninth inning leading the Huskies, 9-7. But Eilenberg served up two home runs in yet another crushing defeat for the Minutemen.

‘Once again, we failed to play well enough at the end of the game to win it,’ Stone said. ‘It just eats at you. We need to be tougher and we need to compete better at the end of the game. We gave up five home runs by the end of the game, that’s terrible.’

Eilenberg came into the game in the eighth inning, relieving Mike DiCato, who gave up three runs on three hits in the seventh to give UConn a 7-4 lead. But the Minutemen quickly answered, scoring five runs in the bottom of the inning for a two-run lead.

Eilenberg pitched a spotless eighth, rendering UConn (15-14) hitless and sending the Minutemen into the ninth with a two-run lead.

The ninth, however, did not go nearly as well. Eilenberg struck out UConn third baseman Dale Brannon to start the inning, but a Matt Burnett single precipitated the collapse of the Minutemen. John Andreoli pinch ran for Burnett and advanced to third on a wild pitch to George Springer.

Springer made Eilenberg regret this miscue when he deposited the next pitch over the center field fence to tie the game at nine. Left fielder Peter Fatse then reached on a costly error by third baseman Jim Macdonald and the Huskies capitalized on yet another error when first baseman Mike Nemeth took Eilenberg deep to right field, putting the Huskies up for good, 11-9.

All of this came after a five-run seventh inning rally by UMass that saw back-to-back home runs by center fielder Brian Baudinet and Macdonald. First baseman Peter Copa started the inning for the Minutemen with a lead-off walk and advanced to third when freshman catcher Tom Conley doubled to right-center field.

Sam Boone pinch-hit for Matt Gedman, hitting a two-RBI double to center field, bringing UMass within one. Baudinet homered to left field, putting UMass up by two. Macdonald followed Baudinet with a solo shot of his own, capping the offensive explosion put together by the Minutemen in the seventh.

Although the offensive output by UMass was ultimately overshadowed by struggles on the mound.

In all, each of the four Minuteman pitchers gave up multiple runs on a day when temperatures reached as low as 46 degrees. Freshman Robert Machado gave up four hits and two runs while striking out two in his first career start.

The only two runs given up by Machado came by way of a Pierre LePage RBI double to right field in the second inning and a solo home run by Fatse in the fourth.

Machado gave way to sophomore Garrett Butt in the fifth inning. He allowed just one hit in fifth, but he struggled in the sixth inning ‘- allowing solo home runs to George Springer and Mike Nemeth.

Mike DiCato came in for the seventh inning and gave up three runs off of three hits.

UMass also lost its lead-off hitter when left fielder Jim Cassidy came up lame when he ran out a fly ball in the first inning. Cassidy gripped his right hamstring as he limped to first base. Garrett Glashoff replaced him and was hitless in four at-bats. Right fielder Mike Donato led the Minutemen with three RBI on two hits.

UMass returns to action when it travels to Saint Louis, Mo., on Friday for game one of a three-game series against A-10 rival Saint Louis (17-14, 5-3 A-10).

Mike Gillmeister can be reached at [email protected]