Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass suffers defeat in extra-inning contest against Gardner-Webb

The Minutemen battle for almost four hours
Kago Motsoma/Daily Collegian(2021)

The Massachusetts baseball team lost in heartbreaking fashion against Gardner-Webb in North Carolina on Wednesday night. The Minutemen (2-5) fought hard through 12 innings of play, coming up short and losing 4-3.

In the top of the ninth inning the game was tied 2-2 with runners on the corners for UMass with two outs. A line drive could have given the Minutemen the lead, but the ball was snagged on a hop by the shortstop and thrown to second to end the inning.

Moving to the bottom of the ninth, the bases were loaded for Gardner-Webb (11-6) with two outs.

UMass served up a pitch that got lifted to the outfield but caught by the right fielder, ending the inning and leaving three runners stranded to head into extra innings.

Now in the top of the twelfth in a 2-2 game, with a runner on second for the Minutemen with one out, Zack Zaetta blasts a deep drive to right field just past the outstretched glove of the right fielder.

The RBI double gave UMass a 3-2 lead in the twelfth heading into the bottom of the inning.

The next half inning began with a one-out triple from the Runnin’ Bulldogs. The next batter would send a fly ball to right field, deep enough for the runner on third to tag up and tie the game, yet again, this time at 3-3.

A single through the left side would be followed up by a bloop to right field that found its way past the right fielder and score the runner from first. This gave Gardner-Webb the 4-3 walk-off win in the twelfth inning.

This was the first time the two teams had played each other in the history of both programs. UMass came in on a four-game losing streak, with Gardner-Webb on the reverse side winning its last four games. Both teams put on a show.

Zaetta led off the game with a ground ball up the middle for a single. A passed ball advanced the leadoff man over to second base. The runner on second then converted on a delayed steal to take third. The throw over to third by the Runnin’ Bulldogs was thrown away and allowed Zaetta to score. This gave UMass a 1-0 lead at the end of the first half-inning.

“[Zaetta’s] been great,” head coach Matt Reynolds said. “We’re really happy with what we’ve gotten from him at the plate. He’s fighting pitches off and he’s got a knack for coming up with the big hit.”

Will MacLean stopped the early first-inning push by Gardner-Webb defensively in the outfield. A tagging runner tested the right fielder on a fly ball, but MacLean was up to the task. He threw out the runner at home to earn himself an outfield assist.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs tallied their first runs of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. UMass pitching then struggled in the bottom of the sixth, walking three batters.

Small ball was successful for the Minutemen for the most part. Two bunts at different points in the game were used to advance runners that ended up coming across home plate.

“I think we got down all of the bunts that we tried to get down,” Reynolds said. “It was just one of those games that was well-pitched and well-defended.”

In the top of the eighth, UMass was thrown out at home following a line-drive double to left center by Nolan Tichy. A relay by the Runnin’ Bulldogs nabbed the runner by a few feet. Tichy had four hits on the night out of the three-hole, going 4-5 with two doubles and a walk.

“Our production from the middle of our order has been a little bit of an issue as of late,” Reynolds said. “I know they’ll come around, but it was great to see [Tichy] kind of snap back to it.”

Seven different pitchers got a chance for the Minutemen in the contest.

Jackson Harrigan got the start for UMass, finishing with one inning pitched, allowing one hit and hitting a batter. Blake Bennett came out of the bullpen for the Minutemen for an inning and struck out three batters in the seventh.

Charlie Devin pitched in relief and fought himself out of the bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth. He finished with two innings pitched not allowing a hit and walked four batters while striking out three.

Zack Given took the bump in extra innings for UMass. He struck out two batters while allowing one earned run and two hits.

Strong depth in the bullpen was essential in keeping the game close and giving the Minutemen an opportunity to win.

“Our bullpen so far all year has been really, really good,” Reynolds said. “Teams that can continue to go out there and be competitive are the ones that give themselves a really good chance to win. I feel like we just have a lot of options right now. The guys are doing their job and it’s very encouraging.”

The almost four-hour game was very back-and-forth with both teams having moments where it looked like they would take home the win. A majority of the game was spent tied, and the end result came down to the wire.

The Minutemen will travel to Meiklejohn Stadium to take on the University of Pennsylvania in a three-game series. First pitch against the Quakers will be Friday, March 17 at 2 p.m.

“We gotta put better [at-bats] together,” Reynolds said. “Shorten up the swings a little bit, and just put more balls in play, and we’ll turn things around pretty quickly here.”

Mike Maynard can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @mike_maynard_.

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