Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Late game struggles cost UMass baseball in 5-3 loss to La Salle Saturday

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(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

After rain postponed the second half of Friday’s game for the Massachusetts baseball team’s game against La Salle to Saturday afternoon, the Minutemen took full advantage of being rested and exploded offensively, downing the Explorers 8-3.

It looked like similar winning success was bound to happen in the regularly scheduled game Saturday, as UMass (10-18, 3-8 Atlantic 10) held a 3-2 lead going into the eighth inning.

Minuteman starter Tim Cassidy had given them six strong innings and Kevin Hassett pitched a 1-2-3 seventh. All signs pointed toward a UMass victory, however it was the late surge from La Salle that proved to be the downfall as the Explorers (11-29, 3-8 A-10) walked away with a 5-3 victory.

Similar success did not follow Hassett into the eighth, as he walked two batters and was then relieved for closer Evan Mackintosh to attempt a five-out save. Left fielder Joe Monzo scored two on a double to right center to take the lead before La Salle added an insurance run in the ninth to come away with the win.

Minutemen coach Mike Stone believed it was just small things that led to UMass’ loss, not any specific player.

“It was just a base hit here and a base hit there,” Stone said. “It wasn’t for a lack of effort that we lost this game. Things happen. It’s just the way the ball bounces sometimes.”

Catcher John Jennings added: “(Hassett) came in and pitched well, but he just lost it after the walks. He did his best to battle out there though, so we can’t be disappointed in how he pitched.”

The Minutemen’s bullpen had been a strong point over the past few contests. Before Saturday, the bullpen had not given up a run in the past two games and Justin Lasko pitched five innings of two-hit ball in what was technically a relief appearance for the right hander in game one.

Despite the bullpen not finding the same success in game two Saturday, Stone was not willing to say that his bullpen struggled.

“I don’t really think the La Salle hitters really got to them,” Stone said. “For Hassett, he gave up a hit, and then had those two walks. We then made the move to the lefty (Mackintosh) and sometimes those moves don’t work out. It’s just how baseball is sometimes. I don’t think they pitched particularly poorly though.”

The play that cost UMass in the ninth inning was when there were La Salle runners on first and third with two outs. Derek Prucnal attempted to steal early from first and got himself into a rundown after Jennings threw the ball to second baseman Ryan Lever. As Prucnal was in the rundown, centerfielder Brian Tagoe darted from third to beat the return throw home.

“It was just a perfectly executed play by them,” Jennings said. “The runner baited me into throwing to second and took the focus off the guy on third that went home. Nothing we could really do about it. They executed that perfectly.”

“We work on those first and third plays a lot,” Stone added. “Normally, we execute it pretty well and are able to stop it, but this time they were a little bit better and executed it when we couldn’t. It’s a big difference when you’re down two than down one.”

As for how the team feels about losing such a close game, Jennings put the whole day in perspective.

“We came out and played well in the first game and we played well for most of the second, so it’s always tough to lose those types of games. But we’ll be ready to go tomorrow and hopefully we can take the rubber match.”

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

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