Big inning does UMass baseball in yet again

By Mark Chiarelli

Nicole Evangelista/Collegian

BOSTON – Primed to repeat as Beanpot champions, the Massachusetts baseball team’s attempt at a repeat came to a screeching halt in the fourth inning Monday night, as it struggled to prevent the “big inning.”

Losers in seven of its last eight games, UMass (10-25) has dealt with a series of tough breaks, unable to control damage in certain innings. In all but one of those losses, the Minutemen have allowed four or more runs in one inning, creating a difficult upwards battle both mentally and physically.

Monday night was no different. Clinging to a 2-0 lead, UMass allowed four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and was never able to recover..

Starting pitcher Aaron Plunkett pitched well outside of the rough inning, but knew Northeastern figured him out at just the wrong time.

“I couldn’t really find the strike zone,” Plunkett said referring to his fourth inning. “I kind of lost my curveball and my changeup, they were just sitting fastball the whole time and whenever I did get it over they were hitting it into play.”

Huskies first baseman Rob Fonseca provided the highlight of the night, hitting a home run over the Green Monster, jumpstarting the big inning. Still, Plunkett did not seem shaken up after the game.

“You can kind of say it’s a part of the experience. I mean, pitching at Fenway and giving up a home run at Fenway, I guess not many people can say that,” Plunkett said.

UMass coach Mike Stone also didn’t believe the homer affected Plunkett, instead noticing other areas of the difficult inning.

“He was sharp early and I thought he went through a stretch where he got behind in the count,” Stone said. “When you get behind in the count it makes it more difficult to get hitters out obviously, so I think that’s the situation we couldn’t come back from.”

Plunkett, who allowed only two hits in the first three innings, gave credit to the Northeastern (24-17) hitters as well.

“They kind of picked up on what I was gonna throw,” Plunkett said. “We had a game plan throughout the lineup and the second and third time through I kind of lost that game plan a little. They picked up on it.”

Playing at Fenway

While the result was not what the squad had in mind, the opportunity to play in one of the most treasured ballparks in the world was not lost on UMass.

“Everybody was all pumped because we’re at Fenway Park,” designated hitter Rob McLam said. “Even just getting on the field, you could tell there was a little more hop to everybody’s step.”

McLam seemed at home in the confines of Fenway, collecting three hits and scoring two runs.

“I just tried to see good pitches the whole day,” McLam said. Later, he noted, “Today it seemed like I got my pitch a lot of the time and it ended up working out for me.”

Stone has been appreciative of McLam’s offensive prowess.

“He’s been swinging the bat well and that’s why he’s hitting third for us. He’s a guy we can always count on,” Stone said.

Dylan Begin also seemed to enjoy having the Green Monster at his disposal, as he pelted the Monster twice with two early doubles, a performance indicative of the team’s approach.

“We were aggressive, composed,” Stone said. “That was the thing I was concerned about coming in was that we play at a ballpark like this, you just want to be composed and relax and have some fun.

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.