Four-run sixth dooms UMass, Minutemen fall to 2-20 on road

By Daniel Malone

Cade Belisle/Collegian

It’s been the little things holding back the Massachusetts baseball team this season, and the scene at the Minutemen’s 5-4 loss at Connecticut Tuesday was no different.

With UMass (9-22) nursing a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth, the Huskies sent eight batters to the plate, scoring four runs on two singles, two errors, a walk and a hit-by-pitch. The loss – the 20th in 22 games away from Amherst – extended the Minutemen’s season-long streak of road game futility.

But it was the nature of their sixth-inning collapse that left UMass coach Mike Stone scratching his head.

“We just did more things to hurt ourselves and prevent ourselves from winning the ball game,” he said.  “It’s just more self-inflicted at anything else at this point, the same thing we did over the weekend.

“It doesn’t matter what it is, we’re just doing too much in a negative way to prevent ourselves from winning a ball game that we really should win.”

Starting pitcher D.J. Jauss was still on the hill for the Minutemen when the UConn (24-16) rally took shape. He let up a one-out single before plunking a hitter — his sixth HBP of the game — but Stone was pleased overall with Jauss’ four-hit, three-run (two earned) performance.

“Other than the fact that he hit a bunch of right-handed hitters, I thought he pitched well,” Stone said. “He made some good pitches, he got out of a jam in the fifth.”

Apart from the six plunked batters, Jauss issued two walks while striking out two in 5 1/3 innings.

“They didn’t hit him, that’s for sure,” Stone added. “We just kind of got ourselves into some trouble.”

Early on, it looked as if UMass was primed to end its hard luck on the road, jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI single from right fielder Adam Picard that scored leadoff man Rich Cusick, who had walked.

Cusick went 4-for-4, raising his team-leading batting average and on-base percentage to .325 and .400, respectively.

“He had a good game today,” Stone said. “He had four hits today and made things happen, got on base. He really did a good job doing what you want your leadoff guy to do.”

The Minutemen added another pair of runs on a Christian Colletti balk that scored shortstop Vinny Scifo in the second and sacrifice fly from third baseman Nik Campero that scored Rob McLam.

Jauss allowed his unearned run in the second on a throwing error by Scifo.

UMass scratched across another run in on a two-out RBI single from Cusick in the eighth to cut the UConn lead to 5-4, but McLam, struck out with the bases loaded to end the Minutemen’s scoring threat in the game.

“We left 12 guys on base and had the bases loaded in the eighth,” Stone said. “(When) you leave too many guys in scoring position, obviously, it’s not a real positive thing.”

Jordan Tabakman, who got the inning-ending strikeout from McLam, came back out for the ninth, collecting his fifth save of the season.

Stephen Catalina worked three innings in relief of starter Christian Colletti to pick up the win for the Huskies, allowing one run on two hits and a walk while striking out two.

After the continued difficulty away from Amherst this season, Stone said the return to Earl Lorden Field for a three game series against Saint Joseph’s that begins on Friday is a welcome relief.

“We’ve played well at home,” he said. “We like playing at home, (but) we haven’t played many games here. It’s nice to get back home and hopefully we’ll get back on track … So, just being more comfortable playing at home, hopefully that’ll make a difference for us.

Daniel Malone can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Daniel_Malone.