UMass falls to Fairfield in extra innings in final home game

By Ross Gienieczko

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian
Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

After jumping out to a 2-0 lead after three innings, the Massachusetts baseball team was held scoreless for the next eight as Fairfield rallied to win 3-2 in 11 innings in UMass’ final home game of the season.

“It was a bad loss, a really bad loss,” Minutemen coach Mike Stone said. “We were ahead the whole game and had many opportunities. We left 16 people on base, a lot of them in scoring position.”

UMass took its 2-0 lead into the ninth inning and was one pitch away from the victory. Two singles and a wild pitch put runners on second and third for the Stags and with two outs and two strikes, Alex Witkus connected on a single to bring both runners in and extend the game.

The Minutemen (14-26, 10-11 Atlantic 10) opened up an early lead off the bats of John Jennings and Mike Geannelis, who had RBI singles in the second and third innings respectively.

Mike Hart singled and advanced to third on a Fairfield error and was promptly driven in by Jennings, the next hitter, to open the scoring in the second. In the third, Paul Yanakopulos singled and then went first-to-third on a base hit by Rob McLam to put himself into scoring position for Geannelis.

The early runs were all the Stags’ (16-30, 8-13 MAAC) pitching staff would surrender. After starter Gavin Wallace was chased in the third inning, a platoon of Fairfield relievers patched together eight scoreless innings while allowing just five hits.

Ryan O’Connor, David Sacco and Anthony DiMauro combined for 42/3 scoreless innings before Mike Bonauito pitched the final four innings and picked up the win. The left-handed sophomore allowed three hits and improved to 2-1 on the year.

The Minutemen wasted six innings of shutout pitching from junior righthander Tim Cassidy. The Swampscott native struck out four while allowing just four hits. Cassidy exited in the sixth after just 77 pitches.

“Tim Cassidy pitched well, Ryan Venditti pitched well and we had it,” Stone said. “It was our game and we let it get away from us.

“When you’re one strike away from winning a game and you don’t, it’s lousy, it really is… very disappointing.”

The Minutemen nearly ended the game again in the bottom of the 10th inning. After Jennings reached on an error, Brett Evangelista pinch ran for him and reached second base with two outs. Yanakopulos then singled to left field but Evangelista was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.

In the 11th, the Stags’ Sal Ciccone doubled and was driven in by Brendan Tracy with two outs to break the tie and put Fairfield up 3-2.

McLam walked and advanced to second on a sacrifice in the bottom of the inning but UMass failed to bring him in and the game ended with the tying run on second base.

The Minutemen fell to 8-5 in one-run games on the season. It was the third loss in a row for UMass and the fourth in five games.

However, Tuesday’s loss wasn’t a critical A-10 conference game. With only three games left in their regular season (all against A-10 foe George Mason), the Minutemen sit one game out of eighth place in the midst of a cluster of teams vying for the eighth and final spot in the conference’s postseason tournament.

VCU and George Mason are 11-10, Saint Joseph’s is 10-10 and UMass and La Salle are both 10-11 in conference play.

The Minutemen will travel to Virginia to face the Patriots this weekend for a three-game series that will decide the team’s season. First pitch for game one is set for 3 p.m. Thursday.

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