Andrew Grant leads UMass baseball over Northeastern

By Ross Gienieczko

Alex Aritan/Daily Collegian
Alex Aritan/Daily Collegian

After the Massachusetts baseball team stole, sacrificed, and hit-and-ran their way to a victory Wednesday afternoon, there was a sense of satisfaction postgame that had deserted the Minutemen during their trying first half of the season.

“It’s about time,” said UMass coach Mike Stone. “It was that kind of afternoon.”

The Minutemen (5-19) finally got back to their trademark “small ball” style, benefiting from seven sharp innings from Andrew Grant on their way to beating Northeastern 5-3 in the Beanpot semifinal.

The win puts the Minutemen into the Beanpot Championship game on April 21 at Northeastern for the third consecutive year.

Grant allowed three runs and picked up his first win of the season. He struck out nine batters, with most coming courtesy of a devastating breaking ball that baffled hitters all afternoon.

After walking the first two batters of the game, Grant settled in. Along with his breaking ball, Grant mixed in an effective fastball and a deceptive changeup to change hitters’ eye levels, and keep the Huskies off balance throughout the game.

“He’s got great stuff, 89-93 (miles per hour), and when you throw that, plus a changeup, and command your breaking ball, it’s going to give you a chance to win,” said Stone.

While Grant provided one half of the UMass victory, it was timely hitting and execution on offense that did the rest. After falling behind 1-0 in the first inning, the Minutemen answered in the second after Dylan Begin doubled, Brandon Walsh advanced him to third on a groundout, and John Jennings tied the game with a sacrifice fly.

In the third inning, UMass used small ball to take the lead after Kyle Adie (2-3, two runs, stolen base) singled and advanced to third base on a successful hit and run by Nick Sanford. On the next pitch, Sanford took off for second, drawing a throw by the catcher which allowed Adie to sprint home.

After missing all of last year and starting this season slow, Adie has started to heat up according to Stone.

“He’s having good at bats and seeing more pitches,” Stone said. “He runs, too. That brings a dimension to us that we don’t get with some other guys.”

In the sixth inning, it was still more small ball for the Minutemen as they scored three times with runs coming off an error, fielder’s choice, and sacrifice fly.

“We executed the way we should,” Stone said. “When you do that, you get a chance to score runs and a much better chance to win the game.”

Northeastern (13-17) was haunted by a squandered opportunity in the first moments of the game. After the two straight walks to start the day, the Huskies seemed ready to strike. A groundout advanced the runners to second and third with only one out, and after Nick Fanneron flared a single into left field, Northeastern seemed poised to take a 2-0 lead.

But Kellen Pagel’s throw from left field hit his relay man, Nik Campero on the letters, and he fired home to cut down what would have been the second run for the Huskies.

It was the first of two outs that Northeastern made at the plate on the day, which represented the difference in the game.

After falling behind 5-1, the Huskies rallied for two runs in the seventh, but Tommy McDonald pitched two scoreless innings to pick up the save for UMass.

The Minutemen return to action this weekend when they host Saint Louis for a three-game series starting Friday afternoon at 3:00 p.m.

Ross Gienieczko can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @RossGien.