Huskies pounce on UMass

By Scott Cournoyer

Rehan Talat/Collegian

The Connecticut baseball team used a nine-run seventh inning to down the Massachusetts baseball team, 12-5, at Earl Lorden Field on Monday afternoon.

UMass (6-10, 2-1 Atlantic 10) dropped its eighth straight contest against the Huskies (15-12) dating back to 2008.

The Minutemen scored five runs off seven hits, and committed three errors in the field. UConn used 15 hits to score 12 runs, but were sloppy in the field as well (four errors).

Sophomore Rob McLam went 3-for-4 for UMass, with two runs scored. Redshirt freshman Adam Picard (2-for-4) was the only other Minuteman to record a multi-hit game. He also collected two RBIs and scored a run.

Redshirt sophomore Ryan Cusick (1-for-5) and senior Tom Conley (1-for-5) were the only other players to record hits for UMass.

The Huskies took an early lead, scoring twice in the top half of the first. With one out, Ryan Fuller and LJ Mazzilli reached base with back-to-back hits, and Jon Testani proceeded to drive Fuller in with an RBI single. Joe Pavone followed up with a sacrifice fly to score Mazzilli for the second run of the inning.

UMass would counter in the bottom of the second inning when Picard walked with one out, stole second, moved to third on a ground out and came around to score after Huskies’ starter Jared Dettmann walked a man home with the bases loaded.

The Minutemen would tie the score at 2-2 in the following inning. McLam started things off with a single, advanced to second on a ground ball, moved to third on a passed ball, and eventually scored on an RBI single by Picard.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Minutemen would grab their only lead of the game. McLam started off the inning with a single, moved to second on a fielding error, advanced to third on a fielder’s choice and scored on another RBI single by Picard.

The tide would turn in a hurry though, as UConn tagged UMass for nine runs in the seventh.

Freshman Conor LeBlanc, in his first collegiate start, was flawless for the Minutemen until the seventh inning, when UMass coach Mike Stone decided to pull him.

“He looked a bit tired at that point in the game, so I decided to go with another arm,” said Stone of LeBlanc, who had pitched 3.1 innings all spring before Monday’s start. “He’s got a lot of talent, and he executed well.”

With one out, fellow freshman Tim Stoops came in to relieve LeBlanc. He was taxed for five (unearned) runs off of four hits while just recording one out in the inning.

Senior Leif Sorenson came in to try to stop the bleeding, but allowed three more runs to come across, which gave the Huskies an 11-3 lead with two outs in the seventh.

“We had a couple opportunities to put the game away after [LeBlanc] left … we just couldn’t execute the way we needed to,,” said Stone.

Freshman Tim Cassidy (0.6 innings, one earned run) and sophomore Aaron Plunkett (1.1 inn, three strikeouts) would also get time on the mound for UMass.

LeBlanc tossed 6.1 innings for the Minutemen and allowed two earned runs (three total) off six hits, while striking out none and walking just one. The 6-foot-4 lefty had allowed just one hit and zero runs in his previous four appearances.

The Minutemen will be back in action on Thursday as they open up a three-game series with conference rival La Salle.

McLam continues to shine

In only his sophomore season, McLam looks more and more like a veteran every time he steps to the plate.

With three hits on Monday, McLam improved his batting average this spring to .381 (16-for-42).

The Terryville, Conn., native saw brief opportunities last season during his freshman campaign, and took advantage of those opportunities with a .304 batting average in 23 at bats.

McLam, once a freshman sitting on the bench, is now a catalyst in the field, and sits in the heart of the order for UMass. He will be essential for the Minutemen as this spring marches on.

Freshman getting time on the mound
Lately, with so many new faces and much to learn about them, Stone has thrown out many young pitchers on the mound to see what they can do.

On Monday, Stone used five pitchers, and three of them were freshman.

With so few experienced relievers in the bullpen, young arms will be key as the season hits its peak.

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