UMass baseball takes pair against Maine in weekend series in Florida

By Adam Aucoin

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(Collegian File Photo)

(Collegian File Photo)

There was little to be happy about for the Massachusetts baseball team coming into its weekend series in Florida this past weekend, where the Minutemen were set to take on Maine and Lehigh.

UMass (3-7) had lost seven of their first eight games and were sporting a team earned run average of 6.09. There was a need for a spark no matter how small, and if the results of this weekend are any indication, that spark has been lit.

The Minutemen went on to take both games from the Black Bears (5-14) with their Sunday contest being the stronger of the two contests, as they cruised to an easy 10-1 win at Henley Field in Lakeland, Florida.

UMass was running on all cylinders in the game as it allowed just five hits and had 13 hits of its own.

The Minutemen were paced by a stand-out performance on the mound by freshman pitcher Justin Lasko, who produced the best performance of his young collegiate career.

Lasko went eight innings for UMass, giving up only one run while striking out six and  walking none in his second win of the season. His last two outings have been light years better than his first career start where he gave up seven runs in two innings of work against Charleston Southern on March 6.

Minutemen coach Mike Stone was nothing but impressed with his young starter.

“He was just dominating. He was able to pitch to both sides of the plate well and he kept them off balance throughout,” Stone said. “He pitched great against Army and picked up his first win, and he continued that success today. He’s an improved pitcher and that is great to see.”

The Maine hitters struggled to figure out UMass pitching throughout the game. The only run it scored came off a double by Patrick Coughlin in the eighth inning.

Offensively, the Minutemen’s offense more than matched the ability of their pitching.

Center fielder Dylan Morris led the Minutemen’s offensive charge with four hits, three runs batted in and two steals in Sunday’s game. Morris now leads UMass in batting average (.410), at-bats (39), hits (16), runs (10) and RBIs (10).

“He’s been swinging the bat well, settling in, and he looks really confident at the plate,” Stone said.

The Minutemen also had multi-hit games from designated hitter Hunter Carey (3) and right fielder Mike Hart (2). Six different players had an RBI in the game for UMass.

Stone was happy with the all-around offensive performance his team showed.

“A number of guys contributed at the plate today,” Stone said. “We put the pressure on them and we didn’t let up late in the ball game.”

UMass opens up weekend with win

After a first inning that saw both teams score two runs, the Minutemen defeated the Black Bears in a 5-3 win on Friday.

Junior Ryan Moloney put in another quality start on the mound as he picked up his first win of the season.

Moloney went 7.2 innings, giving up six hits and two earned runs on the day. On the season, he has compiled a 2.18 ERA, which is top amongst starters.

Morris once again led UMass offensively as he had two RBIs, including a first-inning two-run home run to start the game.

The second game of the weekend was supposed to be played against Lehigh. The teams played into the third inning with the Minutemen up 3-0 before the game was called due to rain, and will not count in the standings because it wasn’t long enough to be a regulation game.

This weekend represents the most successful weekend UMass has produced all season. The team is now on a two-game win streak, the first time it has won back-to-back games this season.

“We finished the week on a real positive,” Stone said. “We improved as a ball club and have good momentum going into our northern season.”

The Minutemen take the field next on Tuesday against Holy Cross. The game will be UMass’ home opener and is set to start at 3 p.m. at Earl Lorden Field.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @aaucoin34.