Brandon Walsh goes scoreless in first appearance of season for UMass baseball

By Tom Mulherin

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

In a 3-1 loss to Saint Joseph’s Friday, senior pitcher Brandon Walsh made his 2016 debut for the Massachusetts baseball team in admirable fashion.

After starting pitcher Ryan Maloney began struggling with his command late in his outing, UMass coach Mike Stone replaced him out for Walsh to come in relief. Inheriting runners on first and second with two outs in the sixth inning, the senior needed just one pitch to force Taylor Boyd to ground out and get the Minutemen (7-15, 2-5 Atlantic 10) out of the jam.

Walsh went on to finish the game for UMass, pitching 3.1 scoreless innings, striking out seven batters. It wasn’t all pretty though, he allowed three hits and three walks while getting into multiple jams with runners in scoring position along the way.

“First time out, he’s throwing hard (but) he’s a little rusty,” Stone said. “He got out of some jams and made some good pitches when it counted … Brandon’s a good pitcher, I like using him because he does bring it out there in good shape. But I thought he was just a little bit rusty – he hasn’t pitched all year so (it’s just) his first time out.”

Walsh, who missed the Minutemen’s first 21 games because of a team-related rules infraction, threw a total of 72 pitches in the contest. In that time, the North Andover native pitched into two lengthy jams in which he threw 27 pitches in the seventh inning and 29 pitches in the eighth.

Yet, perhaps the biggest challenge came when the Hawks (15-14, 4-3 A-10) put runners on second and third after a wild pitch with just one out in the ninth. But just as he did in the two innings before, Walsh stayed calm and overcame the lapse by striking Matt Maul and forcing Charlie Coughlin into a groundout.

“I thought he threw the ball well,” senior catcher John Jennings said. “He was a little bit on top of his fastball, leaving it up a little bit, but that comes with not having time on the mound yet this season. I thought he threw the ball well though in his first time out.”

While Walsh was the only pitcher from the bullpen to see time in this outing, the rest of the group has been heavily relied on recently. In the past four games, the relievers have seen 14.1 innings of work, compared to 17 innings from the starters. It’s hard to overlook the bullpen’s success when it posts a 2.65 earned run average with 22 strikeouts during that span, all while putting up nearly as many innings as the starters.

“I think the bullpen’s been doing well,” Jennings said. “They’ve been called upon and they’ve been doing a great job. So they just need to keep doing what they’re doing.”

“It takes 11, 12 guys (to have successful pitching) when you play a lot of games like we do,” he added. “I think we’re getting (up to par). Now with Walsh coming back and (Mike) Geannelis, we definitely have some help at the end of the game. You know, we’ll just see how it goes.”

Tom Mulherin can be reached at [email protected]