Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Minutemen drop 2-of-3 at St. Joes

The Massachusetts baseball team grabbed a win in the finale of a three-game series with Saint Joseph’s to avoid a sweep this weekend in Philadelphia.

Minutemen (11-12, 6-3 Atlantic 10) senior pitcher Joe Popielarczyk dazzled on Sunday against the Hawks (15-21, 6-3 A-10), and pushed his record on the season to 3-0. UMass and St. Joseph’s now sit in a tie for third place in the A-10 standings behind Rhode Island (21-14, 9-3 A-10) and Dayton (17-20, 8-4 A-10).

After poor starting pitching performances early in the weekend by Dennis Torres and Glen Misho, Popielarczyk found a way to end the series against the Hawks on a positive note.

He threw 7.1 strong innings and surrendered two runs in a 3-2 Minutemen victory that snapped a seven-game winning streak for St. Joseph’s.

“It was great to come back and get a win after the first two games,” said Popielarczyk to “Everyone played great, offense hit the ball well, defense did its job and it was easy to throw strikes and have the defense make the plays.”

Popielarczyk, a walk-on, has been UMass’ best starting pitcher this season, and his 1.57 earned-run average is the best in the conference.

“I always take the same mentality. You always want to pitch like its 0-0 cause I don’t want to let in any runs,” said Popielarczyk.

The Minutemen struck first in Sunday’s game in the second inning, when Dylan Begin drove in his former high school teammate, Adam Picard with a double. Picard walked and then was bunted into scoring position by Nick Campero.

Since UMass does not possess a high-powered offense, it has adopted a small-ball mentality this season.

In the bottom of the third, the Hawks retaliated with three straight two-out singles off of Popielarczyk. Lansing Veeder’s hit was the final of the three, and it sent home a run to even the score at one.

In the top of the fourth, the Minutemen came right back and took advantage of a St. Joseph’s fielding miscue. Picard reached for the second time in the game when SJU right fielder Greg Kumpel dropped Picard’s fly ball, which allowed him to advance to second base.

After a sacrifice line out by Begin sent Picard to third, Nick Sanford walked to bring Rich Greaf to the plate with two outs. Greaf capitalized on the clutch situation, as he has done all year, with an RBI single to right to give UMass a 2-1 lead.

In the top of the eighth, the Minutemen added an insurance run when Anthony Serino scored on another error by the Hawks.

“I thought we played pretty well as a team, although we could of executed a little better on the offensive side, Joe gave us a chance to win as he always does and we played some good defense for him today,” said Serino.

Popielarczyk stayed out of trouble into the eighth inning, but he ran out of gas and surrendered an RBI double to SJU’s Kevin Taylor. UMass put its one-run lead into the hands of closer Leif Sorenson for a five-out save opportunity.

Sorenson finished what Popielarczyk started in the eighth, as he forced a line out to Serino in center, and a ground ball to Sanford at shortstop.

After a scoreless ninth inning for the Minutemen, Sorenson closed the door for his fifth save of the season with a 1-2-3 inning.

“I think it gets a lot of momentum going,” said Serino of the win. “We didn’t play with a lot of energy the first two games and I think we picked it up in the later innings of Saturday’s game and brought it into today. Now I think we are going to take this momentum into next week.”

The Minutemen resume action on Tuesday as they will head to New Britain, Conn., to take on non-conference foe Central Connecticut.

Chris Corso can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Corso.

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