Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass baseball’s bats struggle against VCU Saturday afternoon

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(Jong Man Kim/ Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts baseball team struggled mightily at the plate for the second straight game as it was shut out again by the Virginia Commonwealth, 2-0, in game two of the weekend series.

Despite freshmen pitcher Brooks Knapek tossing 8.2 innings only allowing one run, the Minutemen (6-16, 2-3 Atlantic 10) were unable to get anything going at the plate. Although VCU’s bats never got going, its pitching made up for the Rams (17-13, 7-1 A-10) struggles at the plate due to an impressive performance from their staff.

Senior Brooks Vial tossed 6.2 innings allowing zero earned runs and only two hits. Vial also held a no-hitter through the fifth. VCU coach Shawn Stiffler pulled Vial during the sixth, and his bullpen followed suit by not allowing any hits in the final two and one-third innings.

“My mentality today was throw strikes and let my team do it, UMass starter Brooks Knapek said. [Assistant] Coach [Nate] Cole and I had worked on it before the game, just fast balls away, fast balls away. It’s the best to have a good defense, in my five or six starts I’ve had tremendous defense this is the best defensive team I have ever had. These guys are great and wherever the ball goes you know the play will be made.

Brooks was one out shy of a complete game until Minutemen coach Mike Stone decided to make the decision to pull his starting pitcher.

“Its not tough at all it’s whatever coach decides whenever he decides it’s time to go that’s the decision,” Brooks said.

Stiffler also took advantage of his starting left-handed pitcher by shifting his outfield to the point where his left fielder was almost in center. The strategy was effective as UMass was unable to pull the ball into that open space in left field with their right-handed hitters.

“You can’t try and pull pitches in college baseball you have to try and put the ball where it is supposed to go and when you don’t you roll over pitches,” Stone said. “It’s based on the information they have on their scouting report on where they think they should have their guys based on our tendencies and what the spray chart says. I’m not sure they were they were playing us the right way, but it worked out for them today”

In addition to failing to hit the ball into the open gaps, the Minutemen were struggled to get the ball in the air. The majority of the at-bats resulted in ground outs in the infield.

“I’d rather see ground balls than fly balls,” Stone said. “Fly balls everybody can catch those. Ground balls only one guy can get to that. No we wanted to hit something hard and flat, fly balls don’t usually help you.”

“The message is not just score runs,” Stone added. “It’s clear your head, make sure you go up to the plate with a simple approach, relax, and try not to do too much. We are not seeing pitching that over powering us it’s just a matter of trying to do a little too much at the plate. It’s a simple approach we get the barrel on the ball more often we get more base runners.”

Jake Mackey can be reached at [email protected]

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