Injury-riddled Minutemen baseball swept by UConn

UMass on seven-game losing skid

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Parker Peters/Daily Collegian

By Joey Aliberti, Assistant Sports Editor

Chris Pearsons struck out swinging in the top of the ninth inning Saturday to give Connecticut a 7-3 victory over the Massachusetts baseball team.

This was UMass’ (7-12) 15th strikeout of the game, along with its third loss in two days, and seventh loss in a row. The Minutemen lost the weekend opener on Friday 9-2 and the first game of the Saturday double-header 11-1.

“Nothing was up to par this weekend,” said Minutemen coach Matt Reynolds. “Really not one aspect of our game, then you combine that with being injured… and it adds up to the results that we’ve got.”

Injuries have plagued UMass to this point in the season, who is currently without right fielder Michael Rounds, closer Jack Pawloski, third basemen Aidan Wilde, first basemen Christian Walsh and pitcher Ben Shields.

Rounds has started all 15 of the games he has played in but has missed the past four due to an undisclosed injury. Kevin Skagerlind has been filling in as right fielder in the wake of Rounds’ injury. Skagerlind has a .214 batting average on the season.

Pawloski had a save in each of his first three appearances against Stony Brook, Merrimack and Towson. His two most recent appearances were not as successful, allowing four runs – three of which were earned – against Northeastern and Holy Cross. Without Pawloski healthy, the Minutemen have no solidified closer, as he is the only pitcher in the bullpen that has earned a save. His injury and timetable for return is also undisclosed.

Wilde is another injured player that has started every single game he has appeared in. The third basemen has paced UMass in batting average (.280), on base percentage (.457) and stolen bases (six).

After a single at-bat in the first of three games against the Huskies (13-12), Wilde was taken out of the game and replaced by freshman Jacob Sloss and Josh Petrucci for the remainder of the weekend. Sloss and Petrucci combined for eight total plate appearances, with no hits and four strikeouts.

Christian Walsh has not seen any action this year, after starting in all nine of the Minutemen’s games in the shortened 2020 season. In those nine starts, the sophomore hit .138, only accumulating four hits over 29 at-bats.

Steve Luttazi has taken over first base this season where he is hitting .241. Luttazi was one of the few batters on UMass to produce runs, going 2-3 with a double and a three-run shot to give the Minutemen its only three runs in the final game of the weekend.

Ben Shields has not made a start since March 12 against Merrimack, where he struck out nine through five innings, allowing two earned runs. Shields has a 2.79 earned run average in his two starts, which is the best of any pitcher that has started a game for UMass.

Along with the five players out with injury, left fielder Colin Shapiro has struggled to stay in the lineup all season. Shapiro has started all six games he has appeared in but came back for the first time since the second weekend of the season after a leg injury sidelined him. In those six games, he has Shapiro also missed the season-opener against Northeastern as he was still recovering from an injury that sidelined him throughout the entire 2020 season.

In his redshirt freshman year, Shapiro led all Minutemen hitters in batting average (.301) and was selected to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie team.

UMass will host Northeastern for its fifth and final matchup of the year against the Huskies on Wednesday. Northeastern has outscored the Minutemen 38-8 in the four contests between the two teams this season. The first pitch will be thrown at 3 p.m.

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