DiLuca: UMass baseball needs more consistency and success from its pitching staff

The Minutemen gave up 45 runs over three games

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Dylan Nguyen / Daily Collegian

By James DiLuca, Collegian Staff

Over the course of this season the Massachusetts baseball team has received inconsistent pitching from its starters and relievers. Collectively, the Minutemen (20-21-1, 7-11 Atlantic 10) have a team ERA of 7.25 which is third worst in the A-10. Additionally, opponents hold a .319 batting average against UMass.

Davidson’s (37-9, 15-3 A-10) offense that leads the A-10 in hits, homeruns and total runs, had its way throughout the series over the weekend. The Wildcats swept UMass in the three-game weekend series.

The Minutemen pitching staff had a roller coaster ride of a series facing off against one of the best offenses in their conference. This was highlighted in Saturday’s game where the Wildcats put up a staggering 28 runs on 25 hits. Saturday’s contest marks the second time the Minutemen have given up 28 runs this season, as on April 19 UConn beat UMass, 28-11.

Tyler Dalton got the start on Saturday for UMass and he struggled from the start, giving up seven runs in one inning of work. Southpaw Zach Given came into relieve Dalton, going two and two-thirds innings pitched, giving up 13 runs on nine hits, while walking two and hitting four batters. Jared Henry then entered the game for Given in the bottom of the fourth.

Henry suffered the same fate as his teammates as the Davidson offense went to work. In Henry’s one and a third innings of work, the Wildcats erupted for 8 runs. Through the first five innings of the game Davidson had put up 28 runs on the board. The Minutemen had problems finding the strike zone as nine Wildcat batters were hit in Saturday’s afternoon affair.

One positive of Saturday’s blowout was the performance of Max LeBlanc, who was able to quiet the Wildcat bats for the last few innings of the game. LeBlanc delivered three scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out two. He started out the season looking shaky at times through his first four appearances of the season. Over that span the sophomore had an ERA of 15.26. In his last five appearances LeBlanc has settled in nicely, striking out 15 batters in 12 innings, while posting an ERA of 3.00.

Friday’s contest saw UMass’ pitching staff turn in its best collective outing of the series. The usually reliable Kevin Dow gave up five runs on nine hits through four innings on the mound. Ben Chrzanowski made his fourth appearance of the year Friday and delivered three scoreless innings. Despite holding Davidson to five runs, the Minutemen did not receive enough run support.

Zach Clevenger got the starting nod on Sunday and gave up seven earned runs in three innings. Statistically, Clevenger has been one of the best pitchers for UMass this season as entering Sunday, the righty held a 3.65 ERA and averaged over a strikeout per inning. He also possesses the second lowest opponent batting average on the team at .189.

With Sunday’s loss the Minutemen are now below .500 for the first time since March 25. Pitching has revealed itself to be a prime focus for improvement as in 13 games this season opponents have scored double digit runs against the Minutemen.

UMass will have a five-day break to rest and recharge as it prepares to host VCU for a weekend series. First pitch is scheduled for Friday at 3 p.m.

James DiLuca can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @DiLucaJames.