UMass baseball team heads to Bronx for three-game set vs. Fordham

By Ross Gienieczko

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian
Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Time is running out for the Massachusetts baseball team in its 2014 campaign.

With its record currently standing at 8-24 (6-9 Atlantic 10), the Minutemen currently find themselves tied for eighth place with Richmond and George Washington within the conference.

The top six teams in the conference qualify for the A-10 tournament at the end of the season.

UMass will look to start the process of making up ground when they travel to Fordham this weekend for a critical three-game series against the Rams.

Fordham (17-21, 7-8 A-10) is starting to play its best baseball at the right time of the season. The Rams have won four consecutive games heading into the weekend and have exploded offensively for 42 runs during that span. They sit in sixth place in the A-10 at just one game ahead of the Minutemen in the loss column.

Fordham is led by senior Tim Swatek, who leads the Rams in hitting with a .367 average and 21 RBIs. He’s stolen 14 bases for the season and has also started nine games on the mound for Fordham, going 4-2 with a 3.96 ERA.

UMass enters the series trending in the opposite direction. After a promising stretch where they won five of six games – including two victories over A-10 leading Saint Louis – the Minutemen have now dropped four straight, with the most recent loss coming against Connecticut on Tuesday afternoon.

UMass is led by senior third baseman Nik Campero, who leads the team with 36 hits and is tied for the team lead in doubles (9) and RBIs (19).

On the mound, junior left-hander Conor LeBlanc has been the most effective pitcher for the Minutemen, starting a team-high nine games and leading UMass with a 3.49 ERA.

Despite the missed opportunities that have plagued the Minutemen all season, junior outfielder Adam Picard insists the team is not getting frustrated.

“Baseball’s a game of mistakes and frustration, we’ve been playing it all our lives and we’re used to that,” Picard said after Tuesday’s loss to the Huskies. “It doesn’t get us down, it doesn’t make us play worse. It’s part of the game and we just need to take it for what it is and move on to the next pitch.”

As they enter the last third of their schedule, the Minutemen will need to move on quickly. 12 of their last 15 games are in conference play and UMass cannot afford any prolonged slump if they hope to qualify for the A-10 playoffs.

The three-game series with the Rams kicks off Friday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in Bronx, N.Y.

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