After making stops in places like New Orleans, La., East Greensboro, NC., Winston Salem and Durham NC, and Charleston, SC., the UMass Lowell baseball team finally had a chance to play at home. The River Hawks (5-14, 0-4 in AE) ran into a hot pitcher on Friday afternoon. Thomas Babalis pitched a gem of a ballgame and got just enough offense to help his team snap a seven-game losing streak in Lowell. Binghamton (4-13, 1-3 in AE) spoiled the home opener for UMass Lowell by defeating them 4-0.
Freshman, LJ Keevan, got the start for Lowell. After the game, his coach, Ken Harring said, ” Keevan will stay as our Friday starter.” He went on to say “he has been our most consistent pitcher to date.” On Friday afternoon, Keevan did not have his best stuff but showed why the coaching staff is high on him. He would dance in and out of trouble during his 5.2 innings of work. There was a lot of traffic on the bases as the Bearcats had runners on in every inning but the third. His best escape came in the second inning when he loaded the bases on a hit and two walks. He would get out of it by getting two fielder’s choice outs, then get leadoff hitter Cavan Tully to hit into a third fielder’s choice to second base to end the inning.
Babalis (2-4) never had to worry about making the right pitch when he needed to because every pitch he threw was the right pitch. His last two outings were not good but on Friday he made up for it. He went seven innings, allowed one hit, a second-inning single off the bat of Jimmy Sullivan. Only one River Hawk batter reached second base during his outing. That came in the fifth when Ryan Proto led off by being hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a one-out walk to Cedric Rose. Babalis would get the next two hitters to get out of it. His teammates finally pushed across the only run he would need in the sixth against Keevan and his bullpen. Three hits by Binghamton hitters, the first two would knock Keevan (3-3) out of the game after going 5.2 innings, nine hits, one earned run, three walks, and four strikeouts. Hayden Duke was called on to keep the game scoreless. Instead, he hung a curveball to the number nine hitter in the Bearcats lineup, Garrett Matheny, who knocked one to left for an RBI single scoring Colin Mason who began the inning with a single to right. 1-0 Binghamton.
In the seventh against the third River Hawks reliever Sal Fusco, Binghamton added to the lead with the help of some shaky outfield defense. Connor Aoki hit a ball to right field that UMass Lowell right fielder Jacob Humphrey misplayed into a three-base error. The next batter, Evin Sullivan, made the River Hawks pay for the mistake as he singled on a line to centerfield to score Aoki then advanced to second on the throw home. The insurance run made it 2-0 Binghamton. Babalis turned things over to his bullpen. The combination of Justin Rosner and Jack Collins continued what Babalis started. They allowed only an eighth-inning double to the gap in left-center field by Rose to lead off the eighth. The next six hitters would all go down. Binghamton tacked on two more runs vs Zack Fortune. A walk to start the ninth to Devin Bade was followed by a single to left by Aoki. Both runners moved up on a sacrifice bunt. Then a pair of Sac Files brought both home to make the score the final of 4-0 Binghamton.
Coach Herring was impressed with Babalis’ performance. His experience and ability to make pitches is the reason why he is highly thought of. UMass Lowell will try to get back into the win column when game two of the series is played on Saturday. Ryan Towle is expected to get the start for the River Hawks.
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