Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass baseball takes two of three in Annapolis over the weekend

Pitching leads Minutemen to two wins

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UMass baseball takes two of three in Annapolis over the weekend

(Simon Nathans/ Daily Collegian)

(Simon Nathans/ Daily Collegian)

(Simon Nathans/ Daily Collegian)

(Simon Nathans/ Daily Collegian)

By Evan Marinofsky, Collegian Staff

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The Massachusetts baseball team has reason to be satisfied after it took two wins from the weekend, both coming Saturday – one each against Central Connecticut State and Navy.

“It was positive overall,” said coach Matt Reynolds. “Losing [Sunday] meant leaving on a sour note but in the grand scheme of things being 3-1 at this point, we’ll take that. [We] saw some good things, saw some bad things but I think just getting out there and on the field this early in the season is a good thing.”

Saturday saw some dominant pitching for the Minutemen (3-1).

In the first game of the day, UMass needed 11 innings to take down Central Connecticut (0-3) by a final of 1-0. Logan Greene reached on a fielding error by the right fielder, leading Colin Shapiro to score the game-winning run.

But the only reason the Minutemen had a chance at winning was from the collective good pitching displayed. Sophomore Sean Harney started, going six shutout innings while striking out 10 on five hits. Freshman Jack Steele followed that up with 2.1 shutout innings of his own before Casey Aubin held the score 0-0 with 2.2 shutout innings and seven strikeouts.

“That’s the Sean Harney that we expect to get,” said Reynolds. “That was the best he’s thrown the entire preseason so that was great to see. Steele was excellent in his very first appearance and Aubin was solid.”

Later in the day, the Minutemen got the benefit of a big eighth inning that would see them plate three in the penultimate frame, as they beat Navy (4-6) 3-0.

Shapiro’s sacrifice bunt would score fellow redshirt freshman Kane Medina to put UMass on the board. Later in the inning, an Eddy Hart single to center scored Luke Oliphant to extend the lead to two. Anthony Videtto’s ground out to third later in the inning would add another, extending the lead to three.

Just like the game earlier in the day, the storyline was similar: pitching dominated. Only this time, it was just one pitcher, as senior Justin Lasko tossed a complete-game shutout while striking out eight.

“That was probably the best performance I’ve seen out of Justin Lasko,” Reynolds said. “In those 20 innings, they didn’t give up a run, so you can’t ask for much more than that. That was a tremendous performance by our staff and that really carried us.”

The only similarity on Sunday was the opponent.

With the rain coming down and the cold overtaking everything in its path, the Minutemen fell to Navy 12-4 in a weather-shortened five-and-a-half inning game.

The Minutemen struck first on Ryan Lever’s fielder choice. But that would be the last time they would lead in the game, as Navy tied it up in the bottom half of the inning, took the lead in the second and never looked back.

The majority of Navy’s offensive front came in the third inning, highlighted by a Zach Stevens triple, Christian Policelli’s double and a two-run single from Jacob Williamson. The Midshipmen would add some more insurance in the fourth with a Liam Lowery two-run home run.

Feeling the brunt of Navy’s offense were freshmen Brad Collins and Kevin Dow. Collins went one and a third, giving up three earned runs on one hit and three walks. Dow followed that up with an inning of work, surrendering three earned on seven total runs, four hits and three walks.

However, Reynolds wasn’t worried about the performances from his freshmen.

“I think those guys are going to bounce back,” he said. “Bradley [Collins] wasn’t his best today and neither was Kevin [Dow]. But it was absolutely miserable so that gave them a little bit of a free pass. The conditions were as bad as you could get – the mound started falling apart.”

Reynolds continued, explaining how the weather was a big factor in the loss.

“It was very cold,” said the coach. “I think that played a role in everybody struggling a little bit. It just wasn’t conducive to being on top of the game on the mound so I think those guys are going to bounce back and won’t affect them moving forward.”

Despite the pitching being excellent for much of the weekend, UMass only plated eight over the three games.

“I think we certainly could do better,” said Reynolds of his offense. “Right now we’ve got a couple of guys who are underperforming right now who are going to start to get back on track. I think Eddy [Hart] is in the process of that – 3-for-3 on Sunday and starting to swing the bat a little better.

“Certainly not the time to push the panic button but we do have to get better if we want to win baseball games. That’s what we’re focused on and I think we’ll get better as we continue play here.”

The Minutemen look to improve their offense next weekend when they travel to Edinburg, Texas for a three-game set against the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Evan Marinofsky can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @emarinofsky.

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