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

UMass hosts Maine on Wednesday

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian
Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The Massachusetts baseball will try to build off Sunday’s season-high 12-run scoring output when the Minutemen host non-conference opponent Maine this afternoon.

After an outstanding 14-game winning streak, the Black Bears (21-16) dropped their last two games to SUNY Binghamton, where they were outscored 8-1 in the two-game series.

This season, Maine seems to be a completely different team when playing in its own ballpark as opposed to playing on the road. The Black Bears have a stellar 6-0 record at home but holds a mediocre 12-12 record on the road and 3-4 record at neutral sites.

Freshman sensation Tyler Patzalek has been the top performer at the plate for Maine this season. The catcher has a striking 35 hits in just 29 games played this season.

The Burlington, Ontario native has shown some power at the plate as well. Patzalek has hit three long balls so far this season while knocking in 27 runs to go along with his .456 slugging percentage and team-leading .340 batting average.

Maine features another stellar freshman in Scott Heath. The outfielder is only slightly off the pace of Patzalek in several hitting categories, as Heath is batting .337 and has a .430 slugging percentage.

Maine appears to be built for the future with these two powerful bats in the middle of their lineup.

Mike Connolly or Jeffrey Gibbs are two candidates to take the hill for the Black Bears on Wednesday. Connolly and Gibbs are the bottom two pitchers in Maine’s starting rotation and the pair combines for a 5-7 record this season.

In 15 appearances, Connolly maintains an average 5.09 ERA, whereas Gibbs has been struggling with a 9.00 ERA in eight starts.

The Minutemen (14-14, 8-4 Atlantic 10) will look to capitalize off the bottom of the Black Bears’ rotation, as both of their top starting pitchers, Steve Perakslis and Shaun Coughlin, were used in the previous series with Binghamton.

Minutemen Pitching

Freshman Conor LeBlanc is expected to start for UMass for another weekday start.             In LeBlanc’s last start, the left-hander struck out 11 batters in six shutout innings as the Minutemen clinched the Beanpot title over Harvard.

With his performance, LeBlanc will be honored as Co-UMass Athlete of the Week at the UMass Sports Luncheon on Wednesday.

The Glastonbury, Conn. native has really come along for the Minutemen in the past couple of weeks with his 3-0 record in three career starts. The underclassmen also has a 2.19 ERA, which only trails Joe Popielarczyk’s A-10 leading 1.12 ERA on the team.

Opposing hitters are batting just .226 this season against the rookie, but he’ll put his hot streak to the test against a Maine lineup that is batting a solid .288 this season.

But behind every starting pitcher is a group of relievers in the bullpen.

Senior Leif Sorenson is surrounded by a bullpen consisting largely of underclassmen relievers. Sorenson has been the finisher for the Minutemen all year, leading the squad with six saves on the year and has been called upon by UMass Coach Mike Stone in many high-pressure scenarios this season.

“We have more depth this year on the mound, they showed that in the fall and we are excited and encouraged to see it through the rest of the season” said Stone.

The closer has pinpoint control, only allowing five walks in 22 innings pitched. Stone has put the senior in save opportunities even when only one more out is necessary to close out a team.

The side-winding closer has tallied 16 strikeouts this year in his 14 appearances.

Sorenson and the rest of the senior class look to provide the leadership to the rest of the team as the schedule turns towards the final stretch.

“Our class is the only class on the team who made the A-10 tournament”, said Leif Sorenson. “We are the only class with playoff experience so we know what it is like and we want to get back there. “

First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Wednesday at Earl Lorden Field.

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


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