UMass baseball looks to end skid against Quinnipiac

By Mark Chiarelli

The Massachusetts baseball team travels to Quinnipiac on Wednesday in hopes of putting an end to its recent struggles.

The 2013 season has proved to be turbulent for UMass (10-25), as the team’s streaky play has made consistency difficult to achieve. Early in the season, the squad struggled through a 10-game losing streak only to later win six of eight, including four in a row. Now, the Minutemen are losers of seven of their eight games and are yet again trending in the wrong direction.

Araz Havan/Collegian

A trip to Hamden, Conn., may ease the frustration for UMass. The Bobcats (10-29) won only one game in April, compiling a record of 1-19 for the month while posting a -84 run differential.

UMass coach Mike Stone is aware of Quinnipiac’s struggles, but knows his squad also has plenty to prove.

“We need to focus on executing ourselves and not be worried on what the other team is doing,” Stone said. “When we’re 10-25 we can’t expect to roll over anybody, we need to come and play well.”

Stone hopes the Minutemen can return to the success of two weeks ago when his team won five of six games and scored 42 runs. He also wants his squad to simplify the game.

“We went through a stretch where we beat ourselves,” Stone said. “You struggle sometimes and make things more difficult than it should be, (and) we have to eliminate those kinds of events that change the course of the game.”

Stone also pointed out a need for more efficient pitching.

“We need to stay ahead of the count and finish off hitters a little bit quicker than we have in the past,” he said. “It’s one of those situations where we try to stay in pitchers’ counts when we’re on defense and finish off hitters.”

Wednesday will offer an opportunity for UMass to move on from a difficult weekend, which included a loss in the Beanpot Championship at Fenway Park on Monday. Stone understands the team may be frustrated but also thinks it’s a learning experience.

“We always mention (that) it’s okay to be disappointed temporarily, but let’s not let that lead to frustration because that leads to not focusing and sloppy play,” Stone said. “You gotta shake off the negative and keep pushing in a positive direction.”

Part of starting that move in a positive direction is cultivating young talent, which is an especially important requirement for teams struggling late in the season. Stone plans to give Wednesday’s start to freshman left-hander Evan Mackintosh, marking his first collegiate start.

Mackintosh led the Minutemen into the Beanpot Championship, picking up the win in the preliminary round against Boston College. He pitched three scoreless innings, allowing only one hit while striking out two.

“We want him to throw strikes and keep hitters off balance,” Stone said. “He’s a strike thrower and we’re hoping he’s going to give us a good ballgame.”

Stone also described the importance of using the end of the year to evaluate his younger players, calling it “natural” to go in a younger direction when things don’t work out.

“That’s a natural occurrence when you try to experiment, you try to give guys like Evan a shot,” Stone said. “He’s been pitching well in limited appearances so we’ll go ahead and give him a shot.”

First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.

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