Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Minutemen pitching going the distance

By Pete Vasquez

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Dominant – the one word consistently used by coach Mike Stone to label the past two pitching performances he witnessed from his Massachusetts baseball team.

The pitching staff has been the Achilles’ heel the entire season for the Minutemen (2-11, 1-2 Atlantic 10), allowing over 100 runs in the first 11 games, with an average of 9.2 runs per game.

But Nick Serino and Mike Gedman showed everyone in the Saint Joseph’s dugout just what type of performances they are capable of when the two pitchers on top of their game.

First up was Serino, taking the ball hours after the pitching staff surrendered nine runs in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday. He responded by hurling eight innings of three-hit ball, striking out 13 Hawks batters, and allowing only one run to cross the plate.

His eight innings were more than his previous two starts combined, when he gave up 12 earned runs on 15 hits.

“He was dominant,” Stone said. “He had command of all his pitches, threw a lot of strikes, and kept hitters off balance. He was definitely stronger this time out, where he had more velocity and just felt very confident with the pitches he was executing.”

Next was Gedman, who in his last start, could not make it past four innings against William and Mary, surrendering seven hits and three walks with no strikeouts. Instead of dwelling upon his latest struggles, Gedman one-upped Serino, going all nine innings while allowing one run with no walks and 10 strikeouts.

“Gedman’s a competitor,” Stone said. “He gave us a dominant performance as well. He’s got a great slider and his fastball is never straight. [Hitters] were swinging at a lot of balls that eventually left the zone.”

Coming into Saturday, the Minutemen had seen only one of their pitchers throw a complete game this season. After Sunday, they saw two more. Serino’s eight innings were the maximum he could go since they came in a losing effort.

It was the first time the Minutemen had two pitchers toss back-to-back complete games since Mitchell Clegg and Serino teamed up from April 17-18 of last year against none other than Saint Joseph’s.

Serino’s 13 strikeouts on Saturday equaled the third time he’s collected double-digit strikeouts in a game during his three years at UMass.

“He can be [a strikeout pitcher],” Stone said. “He’s got real good stuff and when he’s throwing hard and he has command of his breaking ball like he did, he’s got a chance of striking a lot of people out.”

After Gedman’s nine-inning effort, his earned run average sits at a very respectable 3.80. His March 16 start against Oklahoma, when he threw the team’s first complete game of the season, shows that he’s capable of going deep into ballgames.

Stone’s history of coaching reveals that he’s not afraid of letting an effective starting pitcher go the distance.

“We don’t have defined roles here like they do in the major leagues,” Stone said. “The way I view it is if a [pitcher] is pitching well, not getting tired, and getting people out, I’m not going to go to the bullpen unless I feel that we have a better pitcher in the bullpen than we have on the mound at that point. That’s why we let them go as long as they go. If they’re getting people out, and we’re in a position to win a ballgame, they’re going to finish.”

Bryan Leigh will attempt to do just that as he gets the challenging task of taking the ball in today’s home game against Holy Cross. Stone knows not to expect a similar outing as the last two, but he’s still optimistic for one.

“If we get performances like that from our starters, we’re going to have a chance to win a lot of ballgames,” Stone said.

“We would love to see him go out and give us a pitching performance like we had from Serino and Gedman. That would be great.”

Pete Vasquez can be reached at [email protected]

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