A fifth-inning rally that saw Connecticut plate four runs helped secure a 7-1 win over the Massachusetts baseball team Wednesday. The loss was the fourth for the Minutemen in the last six games.
UMass coach Mike Stone was less than pleased after the game.
“[We weren’t] good enough to beat a good ballclub obviously,” said Stone.
Junior Robert Machado got the start on the hill for the Minutemen (8-12, 2-1 Atlantic 10), going four innings, giving up one run on seven hits while striking out three and walking four. Stone said that although he fell behind in some counts, Machado did a pretty good job and that he was impressed with how he got out of a few jams. Machado tossed 79 pitches in his outing.
Machado’s performance was not the reason he was pulled after the fourth inning. The Minutemen coaching staff had him on a pitch count, knowing that they may need him to pitch on Sunday against Dayton.
The game started off relatively slow. Other than the Huskies (15-10-1) cashing in on a leadoff triple by Ryan Fuller in the second inning, neither team sustained any rally through the first four innings.
At the start of the fifth inning, UMass’ inability to throw consistent strikes got the best of it, allowing four runs on one hit by the Huskies. Machado was replaced by Ryan Lubreski, who recorded an out, walking three batters and hitting another. The Huskies also cashed in on a pair of Minutemen errors.
The Minutemen had a chance to answer in the top half of the sixth, but with a couple men on, the rally was dashed after Peter Copa grounded into a double play.
Freshman Aaron Plunkett, who replaced Lubreski in the bottom half of the fifth, ended up pitching three innings, giving up one run on two hits, striking out four and walking one. Stone said he was impressed by Plunkett’s performance and that the freshman has given himself a chance to pitch more down the line.
“[Plunkett was] one of the positives of the day,” said Stone.
The Huskies would add to their lead in the seventh and eighth innings, scoring on an RBI fielder’s choice by Kevin Vance in the seventh and again on an RBI single by Mike Nemeth an inning later.
The Minutemen would score their lone run of the game in the top of the ninth after consecutive doubles by Copa and Tom Conley.
Getting the win for UConn was Robert Van Woert, who went 5.1 innings, giving up no runs on three hits while walking five and striking out one.
Stone added that some credit did have to go out to the UConn pitching staff, which almost shut down the Minutemen lineup for the entire game.
Of the six players in the UMass lineup to reach base with a hit, Conley and Rich Graef were the only two with multi-hit performances.
The Minutemen certainly had their opportunities early in the game with all of the walks Van Woert surrendered. After he was pulled, however, UConn’s trio of relievers, David Fischer, Dan Feehan and Vance shut the door. The Minutemen left a total of eight runners on base.
Next up for UMass is its long-awaited home opener at Earl Lorden Field on Friday at 3 p.m. against Dayton. The game is the first of a three-game series.
Eric Mansfield can be reached at [email protected]