Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass baseball poised to make run for final spot in A-10 Tournament this season

(Alex Aritan/Daily Collegian)
(Alex Aritan/Daily Collegian)

Following non-conference play at the beginning of the year, the Massachusetts baseball team hit a stride and has been competitive in just about every Atlantic 10 game this season.

In the team’s 11 conference losses, the Minutemen have lost 10 of those games by three runs or less.

This gives UMass coach Mike Stone reasons to believe that his team can make a final run for one of the last spots in the Atlantic 10 Tournament as the regular season winds down.

“We’re always close. We have to expect that it will always be close and do something better and more positive at the end of a ballgame to win it,” Stone said. “Getting the big hit, or moving people into scoring position, now that’s what it’s all about.“

UMass (9-26, 7-11, Atlantic 10) is just two games back in the standings for the seventh and final spot in this year’s conference tournament.

Richmond and Fordham are currently holding down the final two spots in the tournament and are both knotted at 9-9 in the conference. The Minutemen begin a nine-game home stretch, with a non-conference game against Quinnipiac on Tuesday. With a pair of series scheduled against George Washington (11-5) and VCU (11-5) at Earl Lorden Field in the upcoming two weeks, Stone is positive­, but doesn’t plan to look too far ahead into the future.

“I think our chances are great, but I really don’t look at it that way,” Stone said.  “Like I have been saying all season, I look at it one game at a time. If we continue to compete like we have been, hopefully we’ll be there at the end of the season. We need get over the hump, and stay competitive. Then we’ll have a good shot.”

He also thinks that his starting pitchers need to step up during the last three A-10 series of the regular season. Stone witnessed a promising performance last game from starter Andrew Grant, as the Minutemen won 4-1 against Fordham on Sunday to avoid the series sweep in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Grant (2-1, 4.46 ERA) pitched a dominant complete game and surrendered just one run in the victory. He allowed six hits, two walks and fanned nine batters.

“I would like to see all of our starting pitchers step up. Andrew Grant had a great effort (Sunday),” Stone said. “He came back and pitched a great ball game. We need performances like that on the mound. It all starts on the mound by setting the tone. He dominated for most of the ball game and then finished it off as well.”

Along with his starting pitchers, Stone called upon some of his veteran bats in the lineup to begin to display their experience in big games.

Upperclassmen Nik Campero and Dylan Begin have been two of the most productive hitters for the Minutemen all season and have to be the players that need to thrive at the plate for UMass to succeed.

Campero is hitting .302 this season and begins the day with team-highs in hits (39) and slugging percentage(.395). His fellow senior teammate Begin, bats in the cleanup spot of the lineup and leads the team in extra-base hits (12), RBI (21) and total bases (52).

“We need to have our veteran players who have had a lot of experience step forward and start to play their best,” Stone said. “Good teams always play better at the end of the season, so that’s what we are looking forward too.”

Chris Corso can be reached at [email protected], and can be followed on Twitter @ChrisCorso5.

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