UMass baseball scores two late runs to pull out 6-5 win against Central Connecticut State in 10 innings Tuesday

By Tom Mulherin

(Daily Collegian/Makoto Yabusaki)
(Daily Collegian/Makoto Yabusaki)

The Massachusetts baseball team overcame a late deficit Tuesday in dramatic fashion and defeated Central Connecticut State 6-5 in extra innings.

Senior captain John Jennings was the hero for the Minutemen (7-13, 2-4 Atlantic 10), connecting on a 10th inning single up the middle with two outs to drive in Mike Hart from second base for the walk-off victory.

“I don’t really think about much when I’m hitting,” he said. “With that pitch, it was a full count and he ended up throwing a curveball, and I said to myself, ‘He’s 100 percent throwing a curveball.’ Full count, two outs (and) a man on second; if he walks me it’s not that big of a deal. But if he hangs it, I’m going to hit it like I did.”

Trailing 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth, UMass had to battle back to send the game to extra innings. With Blue Devils (13-17, 6-6 Northeast Conference) pitcher Michael Pastore already 39 pitches deep into his relief outing, the Minutemen hit two straight singles to get runners on first and second before Jon Avallone pinch-hit for Cooper Mrowka. With two outs, Avallone chopped an infield single over the pitcher’s head to second base and a throwing error by Dean Lockery allowed the tying run to score.

“We hung in there and had a chance to win at the end,” Stone said. “It’s good to win a game. It’s been a struggle at times and it’s good to win. It’s just a much better feeling because the other alternative is not good.”

A high-powered offensive display was the big story early on. Both teams started out hot by scoring runs quickly and each wound up with four runs through four innings.  Neither CCSU’s Jared Gallagher or the Minutemen’s Casey Aubin pitched particularly well in their starts, but the back and forth scoring stopped once the two were relieved in the third and fourth innings, respectively.

The Minutemen’s bullpen performance served the largest impact Tuesday afternoon as Kevin Lacy entered and pitched 41/3 innings of relief before being replaced by Ben Panunzio in the ninth. Lacy allowed just one run on five hits and a walk and Panunzio earned the win after allowing one hit and striking out two through 12/3 innings.

“It was a struggle early but I though Kevin Lacy did an outstanding job coming in and giving us quality innings when we needed it,” Stone said. “It gave us a chance to win the ballgame. I think a lot of times, when you go to a pitcher, you want the guy to give you a chance to win and he certainly did that. Ben came through and gave us some quality innings in the end (too).”

“The curveball was successful today, definitely my best pitch,” Lacy said of his outing. “I always want to stay out there and battle, try and finish the game off. I think (Stone) believed in me and I had a lot of confidence.”

UMass’ offense showed flashes of life despite four scoreless innings entering the ninth. Brett Evangelista, Dylan Morris, Mike Geannelis and Hunter Carey all had multiple hits while Jennings and Vinny Scifo combined for five walks.

“(CCSU’s pitchers) were hittable guys,” Stone said. “I think (they were) guys that we should’ve handled pretty well. I was glad to see that we did and put the pressure on and put some runs out there for us.”

Tom Mulherin can be reached at [email protected]