UMass baseball swept in weekend series at La Salle

By Mark Chiarelli

The Massachusetts baseball team was swept by La Salle this weekend, losing a three-game series which included a 12-run loss and a five-run blown lead.

UMass (9-21, 3-9 Atlantic 10) entered the weekend riding the momentum of a four-game winning streak, which included a 10th inning walk-off victory Wednesday. But the Minutemen faltered against the Explorers (18-19, 11-4 A-10), allowing 32 runs over the series in an effort coach Mike Stone said simply “wasn’t good enough.”

Stephen Sellner/Collegian

On Sunday, UMass lost 6-2 in a game which was scoreless until a five-run fifth inning for La Salle. Conor LeBlanc started for the Minutemen, and pitched relatively well until the fifth frame, when he allowed five earned runs on only two hits while walking four batters.

“I thought Conor pitched pretty well until the fifth inning, and all of a sudden he came to a screeching halt,” Stone said.

The Minutemen’s lone RBI came in the seventh inning after Ryan Cusick scored on a Rich Graef single. Cusick then created havoc on the bases, stealing second base and then taking third due to a throwing error. Cusick and Graef, the top two hitters in the order, combined for four of the team’s six hits.

“It’s always good to have a guy that gets on base and provides you with a spark to start the game,” Stone said referring to Cusick, while also pointing out Graef  “played well too.”

La Salle rallies past UM with big 8th

On Saturday, UMass came within six outs of a victory, but went on to lose 9-7 despite leading 7-4 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning.

The pitching staff was unable to hold the lead in the frame, allowing five Explorers to cross home plate and take a two-run lead. Jordan Pace started for the Minutemen, pitching into the eighth in a lengthy performance as he threw 128 pitches over 72/3 innings, allowing eight earned runs on 12 hits, including four runs in the eighth.

“Jordan pitched well enough to win and gave us a good effort and battled,” Stone said. “We tried to ride him as long as we could.”

Saturday was UMass’ best offensive performance, which included Cusick and Graef each tallying three hits apiece. Dylan Begin also added some muscle to the middle of the order, blasting a home run to deep center in the fourth inning. Catcher John Jennings rounded out the solid offensive day, knocking in two runs while reaching base three times.

Still, Stone was disappointed in the outcome of the game.

“We had a chance to win and ended up giving the game away,” he said.

Grant struggles in series-opening loss

Despite grabbing the first run of the game, the Minutemen struggled mightily in the opening game of the series, losing 17-5 on Friday afternoon.

UMass starter Andrew Grant struggled to stay aggressive early, as he lasted only 3 1/3 innings while allowing nine runs (seven earned) on 10 hits en route to his fifth loss of the season.

“He got behind a lot, didn’t get ahead early in the count, just made things more difficult than it really had to be,” Stone said.

It was a difficult day overall, as the Minutemen fell behind 9-1 early and couldn’t claw back.

“We didn’t do much right,” Stone said. “One of the worst games we’ve played all year, if not the worst. Probably the worst.”

Adam Picard led the way for UMass, compiling two hits while also driving in two runs.

The Minutemen will look to regain their winning ways Tuesday when they take on Connecticut on the road.

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