UMass baseball swept on the road at VCU

Minutemen lose ninth straight

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UMass baseball swept on the road at VCU

(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

By Frederick Hanna III, Collegian Staff

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It was another tough weekend for the Massachusetts baseball team who lost its ninth-straight game Sunday. UMass (4-12, 0-3 Atlantic 10) was swept by fellow A-10 rival Virginia Commonwealth (18-6, 3-0 A-10) this weekend in Richmond.

The Minutemen couldn’t get anything going this weekend, and that trend continued Sunday when they found themselves being held to less than two runs for the third time during the series.

In the series finale, coach Matt Reynolds sent sophomore Sean Harney to the mound. Harney finished the day going six and a third innings pitched, allowing just one run on two hits.

Reynolds spoke to the importance of having solid starting pitching and had praise for the righty who has been a consistent part of the UMass rotation this year.

“It’s an absolute necessity really, especially where we are at right now. We don’t have the luxury to do what VCU did [this weekend]” said Reynolds. “Their depth is something that we don’t have right now just because in some cases of injuries, but also lack of experience.”

UMass was deadlocked 1-1 with VCU on Sunday until the eighth inning when the Rams added two more to pull away. The Minutemen were just one out away from getting out of the inning with a man on second and third, before VCU’s Steven Carpenter drove in two runs with a single off Jack Pawloski.

VCU used a mix of three pitchers during the game with Jack Alkire getting the win after going three innings and a third allowing no runs. The Minutemen lost the finale 3-1.

On Saturday UMass kept itself in the ball game limiting VCU to four runs through seven, until a burst of offense from the Rams in the eighth saw them pull ahead 7-2. The Minutemen were once again held to two runs in another dominant pitching performance from VCU’s bullpen.

“They’ve got a ton of depth… there was probably five or six quality arms [on the roster],” said Reynolds. “They’re playing with a different deck of cards as far as just bullpen depth. They’re solid up and down.”

Righty Brad Collins got the nod for the Minutemen but allowed three earned and four hits in two innings of work. On the other side again VCU used a mix of three pitchers to put away the Minutemen containing them to only two runs. Benjamin Dum got the win for VCU after a dominant four innings of work where he didn’t allow a hit.

The one bright spot for the Minutemen Saturday was the continued success of outfielder Nolan Kessinger who had his second multi-hit game of the series, and third of the season.

“He has hit his stride and is looking mid-season form,” Reynolds said. “He was a big key for us at the plate so hopefully he can keep it rolling and we can start to get more contributions elsewhere.”

VCU was led by Zac Ching who put up three hits in five at-bats contributing with two runs scored, two RBIs and a home run.

The opener on Friday saw UMass stay competitive against VCU throughout the game until another eighth inning burst saw the Rams tack on two insurance runs pulling ahead in the game to win 5-2.

Senior Justin Lasko got the ball for the Minutemen and finished with a strong outing going seven innings allowing two earned runs and striking out four despite the loss.

“If we don’t get that [performance] on day one, then we got to burn some arms up,” Reynolds said. “Then the depth issue becomes even greater as the weekend goes on.”

VCU’s strong bullpen kept the Minutemen’s bats quiet at the plate as Evan Chenier picked up the win after three innings of relief. From the fourth and onward to the end of the game, the Minutemen were held scoreless due to strong pitching from VCU. The bullpen finished with 13 strikeouts.

Liam Hibbits and Steven Carpenter of VCU combined going 3-for-6 at the plate with two runs scored and an RBI. For UMass freshman Colin Shapiro extended his on-base streak to 14 games, while Kessinger went 2-for-4 at the plate driving in a run.

The Minutemen return to action with their first home game on Tuesday with a non-conference game versus Albany.

Frederick Hanna can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @FrederickHIII.