Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass baseball drops game three with La Salle

UMass finishes eight game home-stand

%28Jon+Asgeirsson%2F+Daily+Collegian%29
(Jon Asgeirsson/ Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/ Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/ Daily Collegian)

By Mollie Walker, Collegian Staff

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The Massachusetts baseball team wrapped up their eight-game home stretch with a 4-3 loss in game three of their weekend series with La Salle.

Entering the top of the ninth knotted at one run each, the Explorers (13-25, 4-8 Atlantic 10) plated three runs to end the chances of extra innings. Jack Cucinotta singled to centerfield before Manny Garcia was thrown out at first after he hit a sacrifice bunt down the first baseline.

Carter Knapek relieved Ben Shields for the Minutemen (11-19, 4-11 A-10) before Cucinotta stole third and scored on an overthrow from catcher Keith Linnane. Shields struck out the following batter before Yan Carlo Rivera tripled to right field. Austin Constantini cleaned up with a two-run home run to right field to go ahead 4-1.

“It was really disappointing. There [were] just too many mistakes made for us to be able to win,” UMass coach Matt Reynolds said. “Offensively they had several chances and couldn’t get guys in. We struck out 10 times and a lot of those were with scorers in running position. It was very frustrating.”

UMass made a valiant comeback effort in the bottom of the ninth that fell short. Cooper Mrowka was walked before Andrew Noonan singled to right field. Nolan Kessinger sent a line drive to center field to load the bases and Logan Green reached first on a fielder’s choice to throw Kessinger out at second as Mrowka scored.

Ryan Lever struck out swinging before Eddy Hart singled to center field to drive in the final run of the game.

“It’s always good to have that in your back pocket, the ability to fight back and to try and recapture the game,” Reynolds said. “That wasn’t the difference, it certainly beats going down one, two, three and losing 4-1, but at least we gave ourselves a chance.”

“Unfortunately, throughout the game we didn’t do enough to be in position to win that game by three runs or so, which I thought was certainly on the table for us,” Reynolds added.

Starting pitcher Brooks Knapek was able to bail the Minutemen out of what could have been a lethal fourth inning for the Explorers. Tommy Toal was hit by a pitch and Ben Faso doubled to centerfield before Brian Dudeck was walked to load the bases. Chase Arnold would single to drive Toal in for the first run of the game.

Cucinotta popped out to center field on the next at bat before Knapek struck out the following two batters to escape the inning. Knapek finished with seven strikeouts through five innings, giving up three hits.

“One-run games are the worst, everyone is going to go home and think about one play or one pitch or one at bat that could influence a one-run game,” Brooks Knapek said. “Going from a walk-off high to losing one in a tough one yesterday and then losing another tough one today, it kind of makes the team real low, but we need to find a way to keep our spirits up.”

It wasn’t until the bottom of the seventh that UMass was able to even the score. Linnane was walked and Kessinger singled through to center field before Logan Greene sacrifice bunted to advance both runners. Marcus Fry grounded out to short to bring in Linnane.

“We just have to keep pressing on and we’ve got to fix our mistakes,” Reynolds said. “Offensively we have to cut down on strikeouts and we need a lot of work offensively, we’re just not getting it done enough, in confidence especially, to win.”

Despite the loss, the Minutemen outhit La Salle 8-6 with Kessinger registering a team-high 3-for-5. Hart was close behind going 2-for-4. There were 11 runners left on base for UMass as it fell to its fifth A-10 opponent.

After Brooks Knapek, Shields, who was hooked with the loss, threw three strikeouts through 3.1 innings, allowing one run. Carter Knapek finished out the day with one strikeout, giving up two runs.

“We’re a real gritty group of guys, our brand of baseball is tough,” Brooks Knapek said. “We won the first nine wins of the year all by a couple runs so we just got to get back to winning those tough games. Those are our games and we know that. We have to play our style.”

Mollie Walker can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter at MWalker2019.

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