UMass baseball fails to take advantage of limited opportunities with runners on base, falls to St. Joe’s

By Kyle DaLuz

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(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

More often than not in baseball, a lack of hits leads to a lack of getting on base. If a team can’t get on base, it can’t score runs. When it can’t score runs, it has a hard time winning games.

Friday afternoon, the Massachusetts baseball team scored just one run in its series opener with Saint Joseph’s, falling 3-1 to its Atlantic 10 foe at Earl Lorden Field.

Up by a run and holding UMass scoreless through the fourth inning, the Hawks (15-14, 4-3 A-10) capitalized on a Ryan Moloney wild pitch that resulted in a throwing error from catcher John Jennings, which ultimately led to the tying and eventual game-winning runs. That was all the offense St. Joe’s needed on the afternoon, but it added an insurance run in the sixth on a Cal Jadacki single that fell into the gap of left and centerfield.

UMass (7-15, 2-5 A-10) scattered seven hits in the contest while leaving seven men on base. The lone Minutemen run came via Jon Avallone (two hits), who scored on a Dylan Morris grounder to second base with the bases loaded. Scoring just two runs in the last 18 innings, UMass coach Mike Stone doesn’t believe it is any particular issue that is giving his offense hiccups.

“It could be a lot of things – I know our guys are trying hard,” Stone said. “They’re working, they’re grinding, they’re spending time in the cage. (They’re) taking a lot of swings. It’s baseball, you never know (what the problem is).”

We had some guys hit the ball hard and (we) didn’t get anything out of it today,” Stone added. “I don’t think it’s anything mechanically – if it was, we’d certainly be working on it. Sometimes the pitchers will get you off balance and that’s the way it is live.”

The Minutemen had an opportunity to start a rally in the fifth inning as their No. 3 hitter, and arguably the best power bat in UMass’ lineup, Mike Hart opted to bunt to try and score Avallone from third base with two outs rather than swing. Hart, who came into Friday batting .325, hit a dribbler right back to pitcher Lucas Rollins, and the two-out threat was thwarted.

“That’s Mike’s choice in that situation,” Stone said. “Your No. 3 hitter, you want him swinging the bat. He thought he had a shot (at driving the runner in), which is fine – if he puts it down, we’ve got a run. Usually you only try that if you’re struggling. I just don’t think he is.”

Moloney did what he could early on to try and keep the Minutemen in the game. The junior cruised through the first three innings, striking out four of the first six Hawks while walking none. Control became an issue over the latter half of his outing, however, as he allowed five walks and two earned runs in 5.2 innings. All of the runs scored were men given a base on balls, and ran Moloney’s pitch count up to 97 pitches.

“I was feeling good through the first couple of innings and then I started having some control issues,” Moloney said. “I was all around (the plate). Just too many walks. I have to limit that next time.”

“His pitch count was up,” Stone added. “He went deep in a lot of counts. When you do that, and you get frustrated here and there, it compounds. If you have a 20 pitch inning, it makes it (pitching well) difficult.”

Moloney pointed to the approach on the mound and starting St. Joe’s with off-speed pitches off the plate as a reason for his command struggles.

“We knew this team was very aggressive, so we tried to start them off with sliders,” he said. “We were just missing with that. They weren’t chasing, so that kind of got us behind in the count. We just kept trying to go with sliders and then we were missing again and falling behind. We weren’t getting ahead early. That was the only issue.”

The finally gasp from UMass came in the eighth inning, with runners at the corners for the second time in the contest, but first baseman Mike Geannelis watched three straight pitches go by to strike out looking and all but end the series opener.

“I know he’s disappointed,” Stone said of Geannelis. “Everyone wants to win, of course. You want to make something happen, score some runs. It happens. It happens in baseball, unfortunately. It’s not ideal, but it happens.”

UMass returns to Earl Lorden Field Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. for game two of the three-game series with St. Joe’s.

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