Winning one game can sometimes be the most difficult thing to do. The UMass Lowell River Hawks were faced with that opportunity on Saturday afternoon. Playing two against the Hartford Hawks and needing to win once to advance to the America East Tournament, the River Hawks (19-29,18-20) could not get the big hit or get the key out to help their cause. Hartford takes the doubleheader with a 3-0 win in game one and then a 7-4 win in game two. Those victories coupled with a doubleheader sweep by Maine over Albany put the Black Bears into the tournament and sends both the Hawks (18-20) and the River Hawks home for the summer.
The River Hawks played both games uphill all day long. They never had the lead in either game nor were they able to have the games tied at any point. Maybe they were squeezing the bats a little too tight forcing things that did not need to be forced. What must be said is that the Hartford Hawks, with nothing to play for, showed up in Lowell and did just that. It’s a credit to Head Coach Justin Blood and his staff to have their team ready to play.
In game one, the Hawks got a tremendous starting pitching performance from junior right-hander Tim Blaisdell who threw a three-hit complete game shutout. The complete game was his second of the season and the shutout was his first. He walked one and struck out nine River Hawk hitters. His season ends with a 4-3 record. Collin Duffley was the tough-luck loser for Lowell. Duffley (3-8) did not pitch all that badly, he was just up against someone who was a little better on Saturday. Collin allowed six hits and three earned runs, The Hawks got him for single runs in the second, third, and a fifth-inning home run to right by Hawks leadoff hitter Donnie Cohoon, his second of the season. Blaisdell gave up three hits, all singles. He allowed a leadoff base hit to Keegan Calero then retired the next ten Lowell hitters. The River Hawks never got base runners into scoring position. Game one went to Hartford 3-0.
UMass Lowell Lowell needed a spark to get things going in the right direction for game two. They turned to senior John Polichetti in hopes he could do just that. Unfortunately, he could not. Hartford jumped on Polichetti (0-3) for three runs in the very first inning. Four of the first five Hawks hitters reached base and three of them scored. RBI base hits from Derek Tenney, and a two-run single from Zachary Ardito (3-for3, 3 RBI) put Lowell in a hole they could not climb out of. Hartford added a single run in the third and two more in the fifth to take a 6-0 advantage. It could have been a lot worse had it not been for River Hawk relief pitcher Henry Funaro who got out of a bases-loaded situation by turning a 1-2-3 double play.
Lowell’s offense finally got untracked in the fifth by putting up a four-spot on Hartford relief pitcher Jack Rose who took over for starter Jason Johnndrow who went the first three scoreless innings. RBI hits from Cam Climo, Ryan Proto (2-for-4, 2 RBI) and a gap triple from Joey Castellanos got Lowell back into the game down two at 6-4.
Hartford got an insurance run in the seventh from Ardito to make it 7-4. Hartford’s bullpen was able to manage the rest of the game to give themselves a sweep of the day. Jared Burrows would finish the game by getting Jonny Gilbride looking then Calero to ground out to second to end the game. For Burrows, it was his first save of the year. UMass Lowell River Hawks head coach Ken Harring was disappointed in how the day went. He said he was “proud of his seniors” who have put so much into the program. He believes the future of the program “is bright” based on a good recruiting class coming in with some junior college players. Maybe the best news of all for Harring and his staff will be the return of Fall Baseball. Until then, this day will sting for some time.