ELON, N.C. – A combination of self-inflicted wounds and missed opportunities were too much to overcome, Sunday, as the UMass Lowell dropped a 5-4 decision to Elon in the series finale at Walter C. Latham Park in Elon, North Carolina.
Elon swept the three-game weekend dropping UMass Lowell to 3-4 on the young season. Elon, a CAA member, is now 6-1.
“We dug ourselves a hole early and we couldn’t come all the way back,” according to UMass Lowell Baseball Head Coach Ken Harring. “We showed some fight, we had some good at-bats, we clawed back into the ball game but we couldn’t come up with one more hit when we needed it against some very good pitching. There were a lot of positives, but it still eats at you.”
The River Hawks left twelve men on base, ten in the final five innings as opportunities slipped through the visitor’s fingers. Five players had multi-hit games as UMass Lowell out hit Elon 13 to 6, but went just three-for-14 with runners in scoring position. The team, also, did not help its cause with a couple of errors, three wild pitches, and three hit batters.
“We’re getting there,” said Harring. “It’s a process, but at times we’re trying to do too much. We did start relaxing as the game went on and had better swings. We swung the bats well against some really good pitching. As frustrating as it is we will be better for it.”
River Hawk sophomore right-hander Sal Fusco (Colonie, N.Y.) got the start and gave the ball club what they had not gotten in the previous two games at Elon. A quiet first inning. Showing a lively fastball, he retired the side on a pair of strikeouts and a fly ball. The Phoenix had scored once in the first in the series opener and scored three times in the Saturday game.
The quiet did not last. Elon broke on top in the second as Fusco lost his location. Two walks set the stage and after a sacrifice bunt advanced the runners, a soft fly ball single to right brought both runner home.
An error opened the door in the bottom of the third and the Phoenix walked right through. By the time the inning was over three unearned runs had crossed the plate and the River Hawks were down 5-0.
Fusco went two and two-thirds innings allowing five runs, two earned, on just two hits. He walked three and added to his troubles with a couple of wild pitches.
“Fusco’s got the tools, but he has not been able to find the consistency,” according to Harring. “He’s a hard worker and he’s working on it. He’s got to stay focused and keep his head clear.”
It continued a concerning trend of allowing runs early. River Hawks starters surrendered 14 runs, seven earned, in just eleven innings of work against Elon.
The 5-0 lead was one that UMass Lowell could not overcome. But they did chip away at it.
The River Hawks got on the board in the fourth. Junior Vinnie Martin (Lodi, N.J.) drilled a one-out double into the right-field corner and senior Ciaran Devenney (Manalapan, N.J.) drove him home with a hard single to left-center.
UMass Lowell added a run in the fifth. Junior Joey Castellanos brought a runner in with a sac fly. In both the fourth and fifth the River Hawks had left runners on base.
The River Hawks threatened in the sixth but left a couple of runners on base. That was quickly becoming one of the themes of the day as the River Hawks stranded runners in seven of the game’s nine innings.
The visitors made it a bit more interesting in the eighth inning. Freshman Ryan Proto’s (Centerville, Mass.) single to left field narrowed the deficit to two, 5-3. The stage had been set by a walk and a single. Sophomore Gerry Siracusa (Kinnelon, N.J.) made it a one-run ballgame with a bouncing ball single up the middle and into center field.
“Siracusa continues to impress,” said Harring. “He’s super athletic and he’s earned every at-bat that he’s had. He’s a hard worker and believes in himself. He’s becoming a presence at the top of the lineup.”
Devenney led the offense with three hits including a double. He drove in a run as well. Siracusa, Martin, Proto and Robert Gallagher (Mullica Hill, N.J.) each had two hits in the ball game.
With some ups and downs, the bullpen was effective. Sophomore Matt Draper (Lowell, Mass.) worked an inning and a third allowing a pair of hits and an inherited runner to score.
Freshman Frankie Venezia (Lyndhurst, N.J.) struggled against the three batters he faced in the fifth inning. An error did not help as he allowed a single and hit a batter to load the bases. Freshman Cam Seguin (Woburn, N.H.) did a Houdini act to get out of the inning. A ground ball with the infield in forced a runner at the plate and a pair of K’s ended the threat.
Seguin gave way to sophomore Joshua Becker (Burlington, Mass.) and the right-hander was electric. He retired the seven batters he faced, accounting for eight outs, showcasing a lights out cutter and slider. Twenty of his 29 pitches were strikes as he constantly had hitter battling from behind.
The River Hawks face another CAA opponent next weekend, the University of Delaware at Bob Hannah Stadium in Newark. The Blue Hens are coming off of a 21-33 season and having dropped four of their first six.
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