Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Despite late push, UMass baseball falls to UConn 10-7

UMass’ early 8-1 deficit hurt it throughout the game

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Despite late push, UMass baseball falls to UConn 10-7

Jon Asgeirsson/Collegian

Jon Asgeirsson/Collegian

Jon Asgeirsson/Collegian

Jon Asgeirsson/Collegian

By Evan Marinofsky, Collegian Staff

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Not many baseball games set a tone in the second inning. But for the Massachusetts baseball team, Tuesday afternoon defied the odds even with a huge ninth inning comeback.

UMass (10-18) lost to Connecticut 10-7 on Tuesday afternoon, and while the Minutemen had a push at the end, it ultimately wasn’t enough.

“I think we came out a little passive in the beginning,” said assistant coach Mark Royer. “They scored eight runs in the blink of an eye and against a good team like that, coming back from 8-1, 8-0 is tough to do.”

The run parade started in the second inning for UConn (24-13) when freshman Kyler Fedko hit a deep sacrifice fly to center field, scoring one to make it 2-0. Michael Woodworth followed that up with an RBI single up the middle to make it 3-0.

To that point, UMass starter Zach Clevenger was in the midst of a rough outing, as he threw 42 pitches in the first inning alone.

After a Christian Walsh error at third base and a walk, Christian Fedko drilled a bases-clearing double to left field to make it 6-0, and that would end Clevenger’s day.

“It’s a huge blow to our momentum and our overall confidence,” said shortstop Ryan Lever who went 3-for-5 on the day. “Coming back from five runs like that. It’s just tough playing from behind all the time and you can’t give teams that advantage.”

Clevenger finished the day going 1 2/3 innings, giving up three earned runs on four hits, four walks and a strikeout, having thrown 76 pitches.

The Minutemen’s only offensive response to the Huskies’ second inning outburst was a Kane Medina single into centerfield to score Luke Oliphant from second base to make it 6-1.

With Clevenger gone, senior Connor Donahue took over on the mound for UMass and things didn’t get any better. Right after taking the reins from Clevenger, Donahue walked two straight batters before getting out of the jam.

For the Minutemen, walks increasingly became a common tune on Tuesday.

“We have to limit that,” said Royer of walks. “Against any team we have to limit that. The more free 90s you give up, the greater the chance of those runs scoring.”

After giving up a double, hitting a batter and a walk in the third inning, Donahue walked in another run to make it 7-1 Huskies. The plug was pulled on his day, ending with two earned runs on one hit, three walks and no strikeouts over 2/3 of an inning, and in came freshman Daniel Livnat to pitch for UMass.

Livnat entered the game with an ERA of 5.40 and had only gone past two innings twice. That all changed Tuesday after he gave up two runs on four hits, three walks and six strikeouts over five innings.

The Huskies had eight runs through three innings and things were looking bleak for the Minutemen. Livnat stopped the bleeding.

The only earned runs for Livnat came when he was taken out in the eighth inning with the bases-loaded. Freshman Tucker Wittman took over and gave up a sacrifice fly to deep center that scored a run for the Huskies to make it 9-2. Then, Wittman gave up a bases-loaded walk that plated one to make it 10-2 Huskies.

“With the game tomorrow and four games this weekend, coming into a tough spot and eating up some innings for us was needed,” said Royer of the left-hander’s performance. “I thought Daniel did some good things.”

Then things got interesting.

The hiccup from the Huskies came in the ninth inning when senior Avery Santos put the first four batters he faced on base, including a passed ball that made it 10-3. Kenny Haus took over on the mound and gave up a fielder’s choice to make it 10-4. Another passed ball made it 10-5.

With runners on second and third, Lever hit a blooper to right field to score one to make it 10-6. Eddy Hart followed up with a fielder’s choice to make it 10-7. That caused UConn to bring in their third pitcher of the inning, Caleb Wurster.

Connor Smith hit a bomb to right field, but it was caught right in front of the fence, mere feet from clearing the wall and going for a walk off home run.

The Minutemen finished with 10 hits but stranded 15 runners. In the second, sixth and ninth inning, the Minutemen left the bases loaded.

“Our situational hitting has always been a struggle for us this year,” said Royer. “I thought we did well the last couple of weekends but today we just kind of got under the ball a little bit. Now you look back at us scoring five runs in the ninth there and making it a game. If we were able to capitalize a little more early in the game, probably would’ve been a different outcome.”

Despite it being a loss for the Minutemen, they plan on putting Tuesday behind them with the Baseball Beanpot championship Wednesday.

“We’re fired up,” said Royer. “A chance to win a championship in the middle of the season will be good for us.”

Evan Marinfosky can be reached at [email protected] and followed on @emarinofsky.

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