UMass Lowell takes rubber game series with Maine 9-8

UMass Lowell takes rubber game series with Maine 9-8

Don’t look now, but the UMass Lowell River Hawks are climbing to the top of the American East standing.  The Sunday afternoon win over Maine not only gives them the series but vaulted them into second place in the conference. With 17 games left in the regular season, they have plenty of time left to make it all the way to the top of the league.

Game three of this weekend set was a bit of a wild affair and the River Hawks hung on for a 9-8 victory. They got contributions up and down the lineup as eight of the nine hitters had hits. The top three batters in UMass Lowell order, Colby Maiola, Ben Prada, and Russ Olive went a combined seven for eleven, with seven rbi.  Every time you looked up these guys were either on base or driving someone in.

Prada had two hits and four rbi on the day. He started with a run-scoring single in the first that got the River Hawks going. One batter later Olive drove one off the scoreboard in right, for a two-run home run. The blast was his team-leading 10th of the season, it gave the River Hawks a 3-0 lead. All the runs were scored off of Black Bear starter pitcher Nick Sliva who struggled in 1.2 innings of work.

The River Hawks added to their lead by scoring a run in the second. Steve Passatempo delivered a run-producing single that scored Vinnie Martin, 4-0 Lowell. That run ended Sliva’s day on the mound for Maine.

UMass Lowell’s starter was Henry Funaro, and afterward, his coach Ken Harring said Funaro had not been feeling well all week. “He gave us everything he had, but he just did not have it today”. He managed two scoreless innings, in which he set down the Black Bears in order. He began to struggle in the third. Maine would get back into the game by scoring three times in the third inning. A two-run rbi single by Danny Casals was followed by a run-scoring groundout by Hemen Sardines. The Black Bears were now down only a run at 4-3.

The River Hawks picked up their starting pitcher by getting those runs back plus one in the bottom of the third. Prada and Olive were the guys responsible for the runs. Both guys would hit fly balls that were lost in the cloudless sky by Black Bears left fielder Colin Ridley who had a difficult time with the clear day. Prada’s double would clear the bases, and an Olive double would drive in Prada.  These runs belonged to Eddie Emerson who was on in relief of Sliva.

UMass Lowell was not done and they added another run in the fourth to give themselves a 9-3 lead. The ninth run came across on a bases-loaded walk to Martin. Emerson also had a rough day out of the Black Bears bullpen giving up five earned runs on six hits.

Funaro started to weaken as the game entered the middle innings. Maine got one back in the fifth. An unearned run was plated when Sardinas’ ground ball with the bases loaded was mishandled by River Hawks second baseman. Prada 9-4 UMass Lowell. The inning could have been worse, but Connor Metelski, in for Funaro got a big double play grounder by Christopher Bec to end the inning.

Maine continued to chip away at the River Hawks lead after getting the first two outs in the sixth. Metelski got himself in trouble on a single by Caleb Herbs that was followed by a Kevin Doody walk. They both scored on a double down the right-field line from Cody Pasic. The River Hawks once again went to the bullpen and got a big out when Ricky Constant came on with the sacks full and got Sardinas to line out to third to end the inning.

While the River Hawks bats were being shut down by the Black Bears pen, they would finish the game with four and two-thirds of three-hit, no run relief. Maine’s offense was still at work. They again loaded the bases with nobody out, against Constant. Dan Cunico was brought in to put out the fire. He got the first man he faced, as Herbs hit into a fielder choice that did plate a run. The next hitter, Doody lined a single past the outstretched glove of second baseman Prada. Suddenly, it was a one-run game at 9-8.

Cunico got out of the seventh. In the eighth, he got some great defensive help when catcher Passatempo threw out Bec trying to steal second to put himself in scoring position to possibly tie the game. Afterward, Harring called that a “huge play “.

In the ninth Luke Tomczyk came in and recorded his second save of the season to make a winner out of Cunico who moves to 3-1 on the season. Sliva took the loss, he drops to 2-5.

The River Hawks are now 17-19 overall, and 8-7 in league play. Maine falls to 6-6 and 11-25 on the season. For UMass Lowell, they have one midweek game, Tuesday afternoon when they will host Boston College at 4 pm.

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