UMass baseball stymied by John Williams in loss to George Mason

By Anthony Chiusano

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian
Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

John Williams made quick work of the Massachusetts baseball team Friday, pitching George Mason to a 3-0 victory to end the Minutemen’s 2015 playoff hopes.

Williams outdueled UMass’ Conor LeBlanc in a fast-paced game that lasted under two hours. The Patriots’ righthander tossed a complete game two-hitter while recording nine strikeouts.

“(Williams) threw a lot of strikes and he’s a power pitcher, a fastball pitcher with a good slider,” Minutemen coach Mike Stone said. “He was ahead in the count most of the time and he was commanding both sides of the plate.”

LeBlanc matched zeroes with Williams for the first five frames on his way to pitching eight strong innings for UMass (15-27, 11-12 Atlantic 10).

But George Mason (23-26-1, 12-11 A-10) broke through against LeBlanc in the sixth inning after a one-out walk and an error by Minutemen shortstop Vinny Scifo opened up a first-and-third situation for the Patriots. George Mason then capitalized on the miscue for two runs on an RBI groundout from Kent Blackstone and a single from Brady Acker.

The Patriots added an insurance run in the eighth inning after Acker picked up his second RBI of the game by reaching on a fielder’s choice with runners on second and third.

LeBlanc finished his outing allowing seven hits, three runs and striking out two. Two of his runs were unearned due to Scifo’s error.

“He mixed his pitches in and out, changed speeds a lot and made some big pitches,” Stone said of LeBlanc. “The flow of the game was real good for him but there were a couple of tough situations and it cost us.”

The loss marked the fifth consecutive game UMass scored three runs or less. Second baseman Rob McLam was the only player in the Minutemen’s lineup to record a hit in Friday’s game, as he finished 2-for-3.

“Conor pitched a really good game and we played well defensively,” Stone said. “Obviously, if you look at the box score, we just didn’t hit.”

UMass entered the series one game out of the final spot for the upcoming A-10 tournament. But as one of four teams vying for the last seed, Friday’s loss eliminated the Minutemen from playoff contention.

Moloney pitches Minutemen past Patriots in game one

In Thursday’s series opener against the Patriots, UMass held on for a 3-2 victory behind the pitching performance of starter Ryan Moloney.

Moloney, a sophomore, limited George Mason to five hits over eight innings to improve his season’s record back to .500 (4-4).

The Minutemen opened Thursday’s scoring in the first inning on a two-out single from Adam Picard. Mike Geannelis then reached on an error in the fifth inning to provide UMass with a 2-0 lead midway through the game.

But the Patriots threatened to come back over the final three frames. After the Minutemen extended their lead to 3-0 in the top half of the seventh, a sacrifice fly from Michael Smith in the bottom half erased the shutout.

Then with runners on second and third in the ninth inning, Ben Panunzio was called in to relieve Moloney and strand the tying run on base. While the junior surrendered George Mason’s second run on a groundout, he recorded the final three outs to earn the save.

“(Panunzio) came in a real tough situation and got us out of a jam,” Stone said. “It was a real clean ball game for us and a real good win.”

UMass closes its three-game series against the Patriots in Saturday’s season finale at 1 p.m.

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.