Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass baseball wins rubber match of three-game series against La Salle Sunday

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(Daily Collegian/Daniel Maldonado)

(Daily Collegian/Daniel Maldonado)

A dominant pitching performance from Brandon Walsh and timely hitting gave the Massachusetts baseball team a win in the rubber game of a three-game set against La Salle.

Walsh pitched a complete game with a career-high 12 strikeouts in the Minutemen’s 8-2 win on Sunday. UMass’ bats responded to the dominant pitching of Walsh, finishing with 13 hits.

“It was just a dominating performance by Brandon,” Minutemen coach Mike Stone said. “We played really well, came away with some clutch hits, put the pressure on them, played good defense. We played a good, solid game all around so it was good to see.”

The seventh inning was the difference for the Minutemen (11-18, 4-8 Atlantic 10). A leadoff walk led to a five-run outburst, giving UMass a 7-0 lead. Dylan Morris reached first on a ball dropped by the Explorers’ (11-30, 3-9 A-10) pitcher after Brett Evangelista walked to start the rally.

The middle of the lineup, Mike Hart, John Jennings and Mike Geannelis, combined to go 8-for-13 with three runs batted in and six runs scored.

Stone commended his team’s all-around solid play, but wants to see more on a consistent basis from the Minutemen.

“We cashed in on opportunities today which we didn’t do (Saturday) in the second game and that was good to see,” Stone said. “It is obviously important, if everyone hits, you are in good shape.”

Hart led the UMass offensively, going 4-for-5 on the day. He smacked a single, scoring Evangelista to extend the lead to three in the seventh inning. Jennings followed with a walk to load the bases with one out for Geannelis. The first pitch Geannelis saw he drove through the first and second base hole, as Hart and Morris crossed the plate to give the Minutemen a 5-0 lead.

Two batters later, Jon Avallone roped a single through the left side that La Salle right fielder Justin Jacko misplayed as the ball rolled all the way to the wall. Jennings and Geannelis scored as Avallone got all the way to third on the Explorers’ second error of the inning.

“We were battling all day, being tough outs,” Hart said. “I just think we got some lucky breaks and he was missing spots and we capitalized on it.”

A 7-0 lead was all Walsh needed. He dominated the La Salle lineup, exposing their swing-friendly approach.

“Getting ahead early on the corners is important,” Jennings said. “It is a free-swinging team and throwing the ball down the middle they can jump on it.”

Walsh added: “We knew they were free swingers so the plan was to attack the zone and try to get some ground balls.”

Walsh allowed three hits through the first eight innings, but ran into a little bit of trouble in the ninth, surrendering two runs on two hits and one walk.

“It was deep in the game, I don’t think he was slowing down, I just think they were just coming up swinging the bat,” Jennings said.

UMass’ offense came alive this weekend, scoring eight runs twice against the struggling Explorers. The Minutemen had four players record at least two hits with all but two players securing a hit. It was a complete team effort and Jennings acknowledged the joy in seeing the whole team contribute.

“The top of the order can’t carry us all the time, everyone is going to have their off days,” Jennings said. “If they can start swinging it like they have been it’ll be good the rest of the season.”

UMass will try to continue to find that consistency when it heads to Connecticut to play Quinnipiac Wednesday. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Tyler Fiedler can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Tyler_Fiedler.

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