UMass edges out Sacred Heart 8-6 in extra innings

Minutemen find a win within dreary stretch

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Kago Motsoma

Kago Motsoma / Daily Collegian

By Joseph Aliberti, Assistant Sports Editor

An 8-6 victory in 11 innings over Sacred Heart on Wednesday afternoon allowed the Massachusetts baseball team to reach the double-digit mark in the win column.

UMass (10-24, 1-11 Atlantic 10) played well, a rarity for the Minutemen in the 2021 season. The Pioneers (14-18, 9-6 Northeast Conference) are the fifth non-A-10 team that UMass has defeated this season, and only one of those five have a winning record–Stony Brook.

Every hitter for the Minutemen recorded a hit, ironically with the exception of their best batter this season in Dylan Judd (.306 batting average before Wednesday). Veterans Eddy Hart and Collin Shapiro each added two hits, most notably Hart’s single in the top of the 10th inning to give UMass its sixth run.

Matt Aronson made his first start of the season, allowing four hits, three runs—one earned—and two walks while striking out three through four innings. Aronson is leading the Minutemen in ERA at 2.25. The 6-foot-2 sophomore has appeared in 10 games total, pitching 16 total innings.

The decision to start Aronson likely comes from head coach Matt Reynolds and his staff looking for any flashes of hope. The Minutemen are currently second to last in the A-10 with a 6.34 ERA coming into Wednesday. They have also hit the second most batters by pitch in the conference.

Jack Steele (eight) and Daniel Livnat (six) have started the most games for UMass in 2021 and have struggled to find success. Steele is 3-5 with a 6.34 ERA while Livnat holds a 1-2 record and a 5.39 ERA.

Pitching is not alone in terms of lackluster areas for this Minutemen team. In fact, hitting is worse off, where they find themselves with the lowest batting average in the A-10 (.213). On top of this, the margin of difference between UMass and the second-worst batting average is .022, which is the margin between the ninth worst and 12th worst.

“It’s all of the areas,” Reynolds said when asked what aspect of his team has the most room for growth. “…Just trying to get everybody to play up to, not above, but just up to their capability level. We’re just learning as we go here.”

UMass came in with no fall training due to COVID-19 protocols, meaning that Reynolds was reunited with his team in person early in 2021. That aspect along with the loss of key transfers (Sean Harney, Anthony Videtto and Jordan Erbe) and many new transfers and freshman have resulted in a constant uphill climb for the Minutemen. Reynolds has found himself desperately trying to not only win games but develop his youth-ridden roster.

“Some guys have been thrust into a position that was probably a little bit premature in an ideal world, but it is what it is,” Reynolds said. “…Ideally we’d be able to make these mistakes and teaching moments and things like that when the score doesn’t matter in the fall but that just wasn’t in the cards for us this year.”

32 of 38 players are underclassmen for UMass, forcing Reynolds’ to give a large number of inexperienced players a heavy workload. The Minutemen’s stretch of games in the next seven days will not make things any easier. UMass travels to the Bronx to take on Fordham (19-11, 9-3 A-10) four times this weekend, then faces Boston College next Tuesday, who recently shut out a top-10 team in the nation in Notre Dame.

First pitch against Fordham will be on Friday at 3 p.m.

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