Baseball downed, 4-3, by Holy Cross

By Scott Cournoyer

Rehan Talat/Collegian
Rehan Talat/Collegian

After the first inning – and a combined four runs scored by both sides – it seemed that the Massachusetts baseball team was going to make yesterday’s game against Holy Cross a high-scoring affair.

By game’s end, the batter’s battle became a pitcher’s duel.

In its home opener, UMass (4-8) dropped a pitching duel, 4-3, to the Crusaders (11-9), who have now won three straight contests.

“It was a well-played game all around between both teams,” said UMass coach Mike Stone, who was tested early with some key pitching decisions, as freshman starter Andrew Grant was taken out after two innings. Grant allowed four earned runs, while also striking out two batters and walking one in his first loss of the season.

“He’s got to get ahead in the count,” said Stone of Grant, who has dealt with inconsistencies in his brief time pitching so far this year. “It’s a matter of trusting his stuff of a little bit more … he’s got a good arm, you can tell that right away and he’s going to help us.”

Holy Cross found its way on the board first in the opening frame. Alex Maldonado singled with one out, stole second and came around to score after Patrick Puentes singled a liner to center.

Chris Sintetos increased the Crusader’s advantage to 2-0 when he singled to left-center, scoring Puentes from second.

The Minutemen came right back in the bottom half of the first. After sophomore Rob McLam reached first base on an error, a single by sophomore Anthony Serino and a wild pitch which moved runners to third and second base, senior Tom Conley hit a sacrifice fly to bring home McLam. Serino also came around to score on the play after a throwing error to third went off and out of the field of play, tying the game at 2-2.

Holy Cross would regain a lead in its next at-bat. Back-to-back singles set the table for Evan Ocello, who proceeded to rope a single to center, brining around two to give the Crusaders a 4-2 lead.

Serino would help cut Holy Cross’s lead to 4-3 in the bottom of the second, when he hit a sacrifice fly to deep right-center, bringing around junior Rich Graef.

With his starter out after just two innings, Stone decided to throw a handful of young guys into the mix of the middle innings, giving his older guys a chance to close the game late, if it was close.

“We are excited about our pitching staff,” said Stone, who used three freshmen Conor LeBlanc and Tim Cassidy and sophomore Ryan Lubreski in the middle innings.

“[The fact that they haven’t pitched a lot] is really why we used them today…we need to know if we’re confident in them,” said Stone.

LeBlanc was the first to come out of the bullpen for UMass, tossing two innings of one-hit ball. Cassidy got the second shot, allowing no runs or hits over one inning of work, striking out one and walking one.

Lubreski filled out the middle for the Minutemen, striking out two while walking two over a pair of innings.

“Overall, I was pleased with some of the performances,” added Stone.

Graef (one run scored) and redshirt freshman Adam Picard recorded multi-hit games for UMass. Sophomores Nick Sanford and Dylan Begin also had a hit apiece.

The Minutemen will have a slate of games over the weekend, beginning Saturday when they host Albany.

Scott Cournoyer can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @MDC_Cournoyer.