Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass baseball opens Atlantic 10 action this weekend at Richmond

Minutemen have won five of last six

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(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

By Ryan Ames, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Massachusetts baseball team begins Atlantic 10 play this weekend when it heads to Richmond, Virginia to battle the Spiders in a three-game series starting Friday.

Richmond (12-8), winners of four straight, is tied with UMass (6-4) for the fifth-best winning percentage among A-10 teams at .600.

Vinny Capra leads the Spiders’ starting nine with a .347 batting average in 20 games while D.J. Lee has a team-high 14 runs batted in. Tim Miller has risen as Richmond’s top arm with a 2-2 record in five starts and a 3.24 earned run average in 25 innings pitched.

The Minutemen have been on a tear recently, winning five of their last six games, including a three-game sweep of Bucknell in the Sunshine State Classic Series.

UMass endured a slow start after posting a 2-3 record in its first five games but turned it around with three dramatic wins against the Bison in Kissimmee, Florida.

“We really started to evolve towards the end of [last] week into what we need to do to consistently win, which is play clean baseball,” Minutemen coach Matt Reynolds said.

All three games saw late wins for UMass as it came from behind in the first two games and then used a walk-off double from sophomore catcher Connor Smith in the bottom of the ninth inning in the final game to take the series 3-0.

The Minutemen split a two-game set with Bradley a couple of days later, highlighted by a solid outing from junior pitcher Justin Lasko in the first game in which the right-hander struck out five and only allowed four hits in six innings of work to earn his second straight victory.

“Lasko was awesome, he gave us a great start against Bradley, and we started to play better defensively,” Reynolds said. “That’s going to be what helps us sustain winning over time versus relying on crazy comeback wins like we did against Bucknell. That’s not going to happen consistently.”

Junior Ryan Lever and sophomore Eddy Hart will look to build upon their fast starts as both sit with batting averages above .300 with Lever notching 17 hits, most among UMass, while Hart has smacked 14 hits through 10 games. Nolan Kessinger leads the Minutemen with nine RBIs.

While Lasko has established himself as the ace of the Minutemen’s starting rotation through the early goings, he has been complimented by Anthony Videtto who is 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA, fanning seven batters in 11 innings of work.

First pitch vs. Richmond is set for 3 p.m. Friday at Pitt Field.

Ryan Ames can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.

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