With a month left in the regular season, the time has come to make a push for the post-season tournament. On Saturday, this is what the UMass Lowell Riverhawks (11-20, 10-12 in AE) did. By taking a doubleheader from the Maine Black Bears (13-12, 8-9 in AE), and three out of four for the weekend, UMass Lowell has put themselves back in the hunt for a spot in that tournament. The Riverhawks got good starting pitching and a productive lineup to take the series from the Black Bears. As head coach Ken Harring said after the sweep, ” We set the tone with our pitching, and swung the bats well in game two”. Some tinkering with the lineup has helped along with some adjustments in the field to give UMass Lowell its first series win since back on March 20-21 at UMBC.
Game 1 was as good as it gets in the game of college baseball. A pitching duel took place between Nicholas Sinacola for Maine and Miles Cota, who was making his first start for the Riverhawks. Scouts were on hand to see the Black Bears right-hander who did not disappoint. The scouts were also given something else to take notes on as Cota matched Sinacola pitch for pitch. Although Cota (4 IP, 4H, 1ER, 0BB, 4 SO) did not get the win in game one, he gave scouts a reason to check back in on him at a later date. The only trouble that Cota got into took place in the second inning of the seven-inning game one. Two straight singles by Joe Bramanti and Quinn McDaniel (his a bunt base hit) set Maine up in great shape. After a fielder’s choice eliminated the lead runner, Jake Marquez stepped up and delivered the game’s first run with an RBI single to center field that scored McDaniel to give Maine a 1-0 lead.
Sinacola was on striking out five of the first six hitters he faced on the way to his seventh straight double-digit strikeout game. He lost the lead in the fourth when Vinnie Martin laced a double down the right-field line, The next man up, Gerry Siracusa, was asked to bunt by coach Harring. Not only did he drop down the bunt, but he also got the bonus as Black Bears catcher Ryan Turenne threw the ball down the right-field line allowing Martin to score an unearned run to tie the game at 1-1 after four innings. Cota did his job and turned the game over to Sal Fusco.
Afterward, Harring said, “he threw the ball as well as he ever had at UMass Lowell.” Fusco went the final three frames throwing no-hit baseball with two punchouts. His performance gave his team a chance to steal the game in the end and that is exactly what they did. The Riverhawks would load the bases with no one out on a single to right by Jimmy Sullivan and two walks. They were only two walks Sinacola would allow. After Jlovel Lantigua hit into a fielder’s choice groundout that forced Sullivan at the plate, light-hitting Roddy Hernandez won the game in walk-off style by lifting a sac fly to center field that scored Jonny Gilbride with the game winning run in a 2-1 Lowell victory. Fusco got his first win of the year and Sinacola took his first defeat after winning his first six decisions.
Game two was about the Riverhawks bats that came alive in a big way. They would hit four home runs in the nine-inning game two as they battered four Black Bears pitchers in the process. Joshua Becker got the game two start and was a little shaky early on. He gave up a home run to Scout Knotts that bounced off the scoreboard in left for a 1-0 Maine lead in the first. Lowell would tie the game in the bottom of the inning when Siracusa drove home Robert Gallagher who had walked with a base hit to center. For Siracusa, it was part of a three-hit four RBI game two.
Lowell would score in six of the eight innings they batted. They started their scoring against starter Noah Lewis who took the loss by going three innings, giving up seven hits, and five earned runs. Becker, as mentioned, would settle down and pitch six innings, He allowed four hits, one earned run, walked three, struck out four, with one hit batsmen. The Riverhawks played some long ball to take the lead in game two. Sullivan went deep in the third off of Lewis. Gallagher (two hits, three runs scored, two RBI) went yard in the fourth. Siracusa hit a two-run shot in the sixth both off Andrew Ruggiero. Cedric Rose (two hits in game two) went deep to left off Tyler Marinaccio in the seventh. Lowell did get a little sloppy in the field in the top of the seventh as two fielding errors led to three unearned runs off of Matt Draper in relief of Becker. Other than that, the happy faces were wearing blue uniforms on Saturday as the Riverhawks swept the doubleheader from Maine by 2-1 and 9-4 scores.
The coach was happy after the doubleheader and why not. His team beat maybe the best pitcher in the conference in game one, then took care of business in game two with their bats. This will need to be the way this team plays especially since they will spend the next two weekends on the road starting in Hartford next week.
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