Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Brandon Walsh dominant in second start of the season for UMass baseball

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(Collegian File Photo)

(Collegian File Photo)

In an 8-2 victory over La Salle Sunday in which the Massachusetts baseball team’s offense exploded for 13 hits and five walks, the game’s best performance didn’t come from any player in the batting order.

Instead, it came from the mound.

Brandon Walsh, in just his second start of the season, excelled to a level that maybe nobody on the roster has seen before. The senior brought his best stuff for the Minutemen (11-18, 4-8 Atlantic 10), pitching a complete game while allowing just two runs, five hits and two walks while striking out a career-high 12 batters in the process.

“Just a dominating performance by Brandon,” UMass coach Mike Stone said. “Fastball was 90, 91, 93 (MPH). (His) command with everything, it just dominated hitters all day long.”

Ironically, the game plan for Walsh didn’t revolve around striking out as many batters as he could. Knowing that his opponent is characterized by a lot of free-swinging hitters, he really tried to pound the strike zone to induce as many ground balls as he could.

By throwing 80 of his 116 pitches for strikes, Walsh certainly did what he set out to do.

“It feels good,” he said. “When you’ve got the defense behind you, playing as well as they were today, it’s easy to just keep throwing strikes and let the rest take care of itself.”

So how did he do it?

“Definitely the mix of pitches,” Walsh said on what was most effective. “Getting my slider for strikes and getting them to swing at pitches I wanted them to, and being able to beat them with my fastball.”

Through the first eight innings, Walsh had a shutout performance in the making. He allowed just three hits up to that point, with only one Explorer (21-23, 11-30 A-10) advancing past first base. But with his pitch count starting to creep above 100 and his team leading 8-0 in the ninth, Walsh’s handle of the game started to lapse a bit by giving up the two walks, two doubles and his only two runs.

Even counting the minor hiccup, senior catcher John Jennings was impressed with how Walsh performed on the mound.

“Brandon had everything working,” Jennings said. “He mostly threw his fastball, pretty much the whole game. He was spotting up on the outside corner; they couldn’t even catch up to it.”

“That was one of the better games I’ve caught for Brandon,” Jennings added. “I mean, he’s had a lot of good ones, but that one was easy. (With him) spotting up, throwing strikes, I didn’t have to work too hard back (behind the plate).”

With Walsh pitching the way he did, Stone credited him by saying his start even ranked among the top performances he’s ever given. Walsh, though, didn’t think too much about how his start compares to how he has pitched in the past. Instead, his attention is more geared on how he can help his team climb in the conference standings.

“This is up there,” Walsh said before quickly changing the subject. “It was a must win for us, so it’s good to get another conference win and just stay alive in the A-10.”

Tom Mulherin can be reached at [email protected]

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