Five-run sixth inning helps snap Minutemen’s 12-game losing streak

Dylan Judd hits team-leading sixth homerun

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Judith Gibson-Okunieff

Collegian File Photo

By Joey Aliberti, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts baseball team was finally able to break its crippling losing streak, which had totaled to 12 over the past three weeks. A five-run sixth inning surged the Minutemen (8-17, 0-4 Atlantic 10) past Merrimack in a 9-8 victory.

After Chris Pearsons grounded out and Collin Shapiro struck out looking, Eddy Hart started the sixth inning run with a single through the second base gap. Designated hitter Dylan Judd followed with a two-run shot over the left field wall, boosting UMass over the Warriors 6-5.

Three consecutive singles from Mike Gervasi, Kevin Skagerlind and Steve Luttazi drove three more runs in to bolster the Minutemen’s lead to 9-5.

Judd finished the day 2-for-4 with three RBI and the sixth-inning homerun, while Gervasi went 3-for-5 with two RBI and two doubles. Gervasi and Judd are neck and neck in team-leading batting average, both hitting .263. Judd also leads the Minutemen with six homeruns, 21 hits and 19 RBIs on the season.

After being UMass’ two best hitters this season, Judd and Gervasi double as catcher and designated hitter, switching off due to the fact that it is nearly impossible for one player to catch the entire season.

“Mike’s been an absolute pillar of our team,” Judd said. “Having him being able to step up when he needs to is a great feeling.”

Defense and pitching did not match the energy of the offense for the Minutemen Wednesday night. UMass went through seven pitchers who totaled only four strikeouts while giving up seven walks in the process. Three errors, four batters hit by a pitch and a few more passed balls allowed two unearned runs on top of the six that were given up by the pitching staff.

The errors manifested on the final play in the ninth inning, when Tucker Wittman threw a wild pitch behind Gervasi. Baserunner Aidan Hawley was at second base before he made the turn for home. Gervasi was able to track the ball behind him and toss it to Wittman while Hawley was sliding into home for the out.

“We didn’t play particularly well, and that’s an understatement,” Minutemen manager Matt Reynolds said. “Luckily we were able to pick up our hits today… I think we just got to keep plugging away with our defense and pitching. It’s nothing complicated, it’s making routine plays and throwing strikes… We walked too many guys, hit too many guys… I think we would’ve had a lot more success today if we just threw the ball where we were supposed to.”

Zach Clevenger was given the starting nod today for UMass, giving up four earned runs and five runs total in 2.1 innings pitched. He struck out two batters, walking another and hitting two more.

Though the win was not without glaring flaws, it does still show up in the win column, which can still speak volumes when a team hasn’t been able to do so for weeks at a time.

“There was a lot of second-guessing,” Judd said of his team during the 12-game skid. “…When you finally get that win, it’s good for reassurance. We are good enough, we can do this, we’ve been through the grind.”

The Minutemen were outscored 100-28 during those 12 losing games, leading to dark days for any baseball team.

“We kind of made baseball fun again for ourselves,” Judd said. “[There was] a lot of energy in the dugout… You can just see the attitude after the game and throughout the game just change drastically.”

The Minutemen will now turn their focus to La Salle, who is 2-2 in the A-10 this season and 16-11 overall. The Explorers have the A-10 stolen bases leader in Jack Cucinotta (14), who will undoubtedly be a handful for the flawed UMass defense.

The first of four games during the weekend will start Friday at 3 p.m. at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.

Joey Aliberti can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JosephAliberti1