Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass baseball looks to break through against Siena

Freshman Sam Cooper will take the mound for the Minutemen

By Thomas Haines, Collegian Staff

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Looking to break out of an extended slump, the Massachusetts baseball team will send freshman Sam Cooper to the mound on Wednesday against Siena for his second collegiate start.

Cooper’s first start came last week against UMass Lowell, a game which UMass (10-16, 3-9 Atlantic 10) lost 4-1. Cooper took the loss after allowing 2 runs in 4.2 innings but looked impressive as he scattered five hits and did not give up a walk.

“He’s certainly capable of getting college outs, and I think he’s gotten better as we’ve gone along here, which is great,” coach Matt Reynolds said. “We’re expecting a quality start out of him. I don’t know how many pitches he’ll go. I don’t think we’re going to see him into the 100-110 [pitch] range or anything like that, but hopefully he can give us five or six solid innings, and we can let the bullpen take over from there.”

Since Cooper last took the mound, the Minutemen played three games against Rhode Island, winning one. That one win snapped an eight-game losing streak, but UMass has still struggled of late, losing 10 of its last 11 games. Over the last eight of those games, the Minutemen have averaged just 2.6 runs.

“We have to score more runs off of what was available to us this weekend,” Reynolds said. “That was really the difference. Guys are going to get runs off of us. We can’t expect our pitchers to go out there and keep other teams to zero, one, two runs, three runs every game. It’s just not going to happen that way.”

Before its current swoon, UMass was hitting quite well, averaging 5.7 runs per game over the first month of the season. Since then, eight games in the past two weeks and a stretch of bad weather have made it difficult to find practice time.

“This is the first time we’ve had two consecutive practices in, I can’t remember when,” Reynolds said. “So we really went to work the last two days, offensively, and we’ll see what happens. It was good for guys to take a breath and not worry about performing in the game and really just work at their craft a little bit.”

Playing in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Siena enters Wednesday’s game at 7-26 following a 7-4 loss to Central Connecticut on Tuesday. After starting the season on a 17-game losing streak, the Saints have gone 7-9 since March 25.

Although Siena has not announced a projected starter for Wednesday’s game, it has consistently used Wednesday as a bullpen day over the last month.

The Siena game takes place in the midst of a nine-game homestand and will be followed by three A-10 games against La Salle starting Friday. Originally, the Minutemen were scheduled to host Connecticut on Tuesday, but the game got canceled due to heavy rains the day before.

The cancellation allowed Reynolds to move the weekly off day to Sunday, which gave the Minutemen an extra day of practice.

“Hopefully it starts to yield some results,” Reynolds said. “We just need to get some guys re-centered and back to the states that they were in when they were in Florida.”

Although UMass, as a team, is struggling to hit right now, one bright spot is second baseman Eddy Hart. Second on the team with a .302 average for the season, Hart fell a triple short of the cycle in Friday’s win against Rhode Island.

“I think I’m calmer this year than last year at the plate. I think I’m getting more mature in handling certain things, and I think I’m getting pitched differently along with that,” Hart said. “I just think that I’ve grown as a player, skills-wise and mentally, since last year.”

First pitch Wednesday will be at 3 p.m.

Thomas Haines can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @thainessports.

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