Despite a ninth-inning rally in the historic confines of Fenway Park, the defending Beanpot Champion Massachusetts baseball team failed to defend its title, falling to Northeastern, 5-3.
The Minutemen (10-19) couldn’t find an answer to the Huskies’ dominance of the strike zone. Northeastern (18-11) recorded 11 strikeouts on the day, Huskies starter Les Williams had five, but the six strikeouts by reliever Andrew Leenhouts in 3-2/3 innings sealed the victory for the 2009 Beanpot Champion Huskies.
UMass starting pitcher Bryan Leigh struck out seven batters in 5-2/3 innings, but the three runs he gave up in the third inning would be his undoing. The Minuteman bats were held silent until the final inning, when Northeastern was already ahead, 5-0.
‘Our guys just weren’t that comfortable at the plate,’ UMass coach Mike Stone said of the effectiveness of the Northeastern pitchers. ‘We had 12 strikeouts and we struck out in key situations, too. We just couldn’t get anything going [offensively].’
UMass did mount a strong comeback attempt in ninth inning. Leenhouts started the final inning by hitting catcher Tom Conley. Shortstop Matt Gedman took the next pitch from Leenhouts and dropped it into right field for a single.
Next, left fielder Kyle Multner took advantage of the error by the Northeastern first baseman when he hit Gedman in an attempt to get the lead runner out at third base.
Third baseman Sam Boone curbed some of UMass’ momentum when he hit into a double play. Conley scored and Gedman advanced to third, bringing up second baseman Adam Tempesta. Coming into the ninth inning, Tempesta was 2-for-4 on the day, leading all Minutemen.
Tempesta brought Gedman around to score with a single to left field. Centerfielder Brian Baudinet hit a single of his own off Leenhouts, advancing Tempesta to third, ending Leenhouts’ day.
Dan Zehr came into the game to finish the game for Northeastern and he induced designated hitter Jim Macdonald what seemed like a routine groundout, but the NU shortstop bobbled the ball and everyone was safe as Tempesta plated the third UMass run.
Mike Gedman pinch-hit for Garrett Glashoff, but Zehr got Gedman to ground out to first base, ending the Minutemen’s hopes of a successful Beanpot title defense.
The ninth inning wasn’t the only time UMass had an opportunity to score. In the first inning alone, Tempesta hit a single down the left field line after Boone struck out and advanced to second when Baudinet drew a one out walk.
Macdonald couldn’t advance Tempesta when he hit the first of his four fly-outs in the game and right fielder Mike Donato struck out to end the inning.
The Minutemen had another scoring chance in the third, when Boone was hit by a pitch and Baudinet drew another walk, but Macdonald again hit a meaningless pop fly.
‘It’s too bad we didn’t do something like that earlier because we had some great fan support,’ Stone said of the ninth-inning rally. ‘We had a good comeback in the ninth, but prior to that we didn’t do anything. We didn’t come up with any hits with runners in scoring position and we just fell flat.’
Although Leigh had a shaky third inning, he worked his way out of jams and got key strikeouts. In the first, second and fourth innings specifically, the Huskies had runners in scoring position and Leigh ended the inning with Ks.
The only Minuteman besides Tempesta to record a multi-hit game was Conley, who went 2-for-3 with a run and a stolen base.
UMass’ next game will be on Wednesday at home against Boston College (23-12) at 3pm.
Mike Gillmeister can be reached at [email protected]