Holy Cross travels to Earl Lorden Field

By Steve Levine

The Massachusetts baseball team will get a break in its conference schedule today when it hosts Holy Cross at home on Earl Lorden Field.

After putting a frustrating 2-1 series loss against Saint Joseph’s in the rearview mirror, UMass (2-11, 1-2 Atlantic 10) hopes to get another dominant performance from its pitching staff.

Getting the nod today will be senior Bryan Leigh, whose best performance came on March 17 against a strong Oklahoma team, when he pitched seven innings while giving up three runs and striking out nine. The two previous starters for the Minutemen were Nick Serino and Mike Gedman, who combined to give up one run in their complete game efforts. UMass would warmly welcome another performance like that from Leigh.

“He’s pitched well for us this year [especially] against Oklahoma,” UMass coach Mike Stone said. “He should be sharp and well rested. Hopefully he’ll be able to do a good job for us.”

Leigh and the rest of the team will have to deal with Holy Cross’ (8-8) torrid offense, which has scored 49 runs in its last four games against the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), including its most recent game when it defeated the Highlanders 16-0.

“I can’t worry about those kinds of things,” Stone said. “I think we’re a better team than New Jersey Tech. Brian is a solid Division 1 pitcher and if he goes out and establishes the strike zone and we swing the bat and play good defense behind him, then we’ll have a better result than [NJIT] did.”

The UMass pitching staff should be wary of Crusaders outfielder Nick Ciardiello, who was recently named Holy Cross’ athlete of the week. From March 22 to 28, Ciardiello went 11-for-20 while registering six runs, four doubles, three home runs and 14 RBIs, leading the Crusaders to a 4-1 record over that span. Ciardiello leads the team with a .448 average, three home runs and 25 RBIs.

Even if the Minutemen can keep Holy Cross’ offense at bay, they will still have to receive some support from their own offense. Aside from last Sunday, when UMass broke out for eight runs, it has been relatively light-hitting as of late, something the Minutemen can’t afford to continue.

“I want everybody to come through with the bat,” Stone said. “I’m confident in all the hitters we send to the plate. I think we’re starting to swing well.”

Two of the main contributors for UMass so far at the dish have been juniors Peter Copa and Matt Gedman, who have both started all 13 games for the Minutemen. Copa is hitting .275 on the season and currently leads the team with four home runs. Gedman is leading the team with a .392 batting average and 10 runs scored, while being tied with Copa for the team-lead in RBIs with nine.

UMass’ approach will not change even though today is a non-conference game.

“We just want to win,” Stone said. “We got off to a slow start record-wise. Every game is important. We’re going to put out the lineup that I feel will give us the best chance to win.”

Steve Levine can be reached at [email protected]