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 travels to local rival Northeastern

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)
(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

After losing two out of three in a series against Davidson in the opening weekend of Atlantic 10 play, the Massachusetts baseball team returns to its home state to play a one-game set with Northeastern today at 3 p.m. at Parsons Field in Boston, Mass.

It’s the only scheduled meeting this year between the Huskies (10-11, 1-2) and Minutemen (4-10, 1-2), who each dropped two of three games this weekend in their conference opening series. It continues a stretch of games against regional opponents for UMass, who fell to Holy Cross last week in their home opener 6-3. The Minutemen have Boston College and a home-and-home series with the University of Rhode Island looming on the docket in the coming week.

“We felt we made some good progress this weekend, we kind of let one get away from us,” said coach Mike Stone, whose Minutemen let a 4-2 lead in the 11th inning Saturday afternoon slip away in a 5-4 loss. “I thought we could have had two wins instead of just one. It was a much improved effort over our Friday game (10-1 defeat). I didn’t feel like we did enough (to win).”

He added, “Every game is important. We want to get a little bit better every game (that) we go out. The more we play, the more at-bats we get, the more opportunities defensively and the more innings we get under our belts is just going to make us better in the long run.”

Northeastern has talent aplenty, with infielder Keith Kelly (.302 average, 15 runs, two home runs, seven runs batted in, .442 slugging percentage), outfielder Pat Madigan (.321, six doubles, 11 RBI, .438 slg), infielder Max Burt (11 RBI), starter Aaron Civale (2.35 earned run average, 3-1 record, 50 strikeouts) and reliever Mike Fitzgerald (1.72 ERA, three saves, 14 strikeouts) playing key roles for the Colonial Athletic Association member.

Freshman pitcher Casey Aubin will be tasked with slowing down the Huskies at bat. Aubin toed the rubber in UMass’ home opener last Tuesday – surrendering four earned runs on six hits in 4.2 innings, falling to 0-2 on the season. The Durham, New Hampshire native has the highest ERA amongst Minutemen starters this season (7.36), allowing nine earned runs in 11 innings along with three home runs – half of the squad’s total.

“We saw him pitch well in Florida,” Stone said regarding Tuesday’s starter. “He had a couple pretty good outings. He’s the next best guy after our weekend guys (Ryan Moloney, Tim Cassidy, and Justin Lasko). We’re not ready to make any changes as far as that’s concerned, so he (Aubin) will start tomorrow.

“He’s got some good young talent. He’s going to be a good pitcher for us. We need to give him some more opportunities at this point.”

The Minutemen have been producing more as of late – scoring 36 runs in their last seven games and winning three of those contests. Dylan Morris (.375 batting average), Mike Hart (.362), Hunter Carey (.326) and John Jennings (.309) all have averages over .300 for UMass. Morris leads the team in runs scored (11), hits (21) and RBI (11), while Jennings’ .564 slugging percentage and Hart’s .474 on base percentage pace the team.

Jennings, a senior captain, is coming off a two home run game in the Minutemen’s 7-1 victory over the Wildcats Saturday night in the back end of a double header.

“I think we’re swinging the bats well – it’s getting contagious too,” Stone said of his team’s offensive play. “We have tougher outs. We’re battling, taking good swings, having good at bats. I think, as our guys get more and more (at bats), we’re gaining confidence.”

Kyle DaLuz can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Kyle_DaLuz.

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