Although it is still March, the UMass Lowell baseball team really could not wait any longer to get things headed in the right direction. Their first home series of the year was a big one vs Binghamton (4-15, 1-5 in AE). The coaching staff knew it and so did the players. The River Hawks (7-14, 2-4 in AE) responded in a big way as they took the series with a 4-1 win at LeLacheur Park in Lowell on Sunday afternoon. Pitching was the theme of this weekend, and the River Hawks just got a little more than the Bearcats.
River Hawks starter Joshua Becker (2-3) did it all this weekend. On Saturday he came out of the bullpen to pitch the ninth inning to save the team’s first win in America East. Sunday he made his scheduled start and was good. He would throw six shutout innings, giving up four hits and no runs. Becker threw 89 pitches a day after getting a save to give his team a chance to take the series. His coach, Ken Harring, said of Becker “he is on the right track.” Binghamton hitters might give a thumbs up to that statement. The Bearcats did have an opportunity to score runs against Becker. In the second, the Bearcats had first and second with two outs. Becker got out of it by striking out Isaiah Corry. In the fourth, Binghamton had first and third with two down. Again Becker escaped by getting Garrett Matheny to fly out to right field.
Meanwhile, the River Hawks bats were giving their starter some runs to work with. They broke a scoreless tie in the third against Binghamton starter Ryan Bryggman (1-3). A two-out walk to Fritz Genther brought Gerry Siracusa to the plate. He delivered an RBI double to the gap in left-center field scoring Genther all the way from first to give Lowell a 1-0 lead. In the fourth, they added to their lead. Three straight hits produced the second run. Jimmy Sullivan with a one-out single to left was followed by a double down the left-field line by Cedric Rose (2-4, 1R) With runners in scoring position, the bottom of the River Hawk order came through. Roddy Hernandez (2-4, 1 RBI) drove home Sullivan with an infield hit to the shortstop hole. Alex Luccini made a nice defensive play in the first inning diving to make a catch off the bat of Bearcats RF Christian Perez. He hit a ground ball to second baseman Cavan Tully who misplayed the ball and allowed the third River Hawks run to score. Bryggman’s day ended with four innings pitched, six hits, three earned runs, two walks, and four Ks. The River Hawks made it 4-0 in the sixth thanks to good baserunning by Jacob Humphrey. After doubling over the head of RF Perez, he stole third base, (11 steals of the year) and kept on running to the plate as the pitch by the third Bearcats pitcher, Kyle Eskildsen, went all the way to the backstop. It was 4-0 Lowell after six.
After six strong innings from Becker, he turned things over to the bullpen. Matt Draper, who struggled mightily at Stony Brook, was the choice. Binghamton scored their only run in the seventh. Matheny led off the inning with a single to center field. After two groundouts, including a nice defensive play up the middle by River Hawks second baseman Hernandez, Binghamton would get back-to-back hits to score their run. Tully (2-4) got a hit off the glove of Lowell SS Genther, then Perez (1-5, 1 RBI) singled to center field. Corry grounded out to 2b to bring home Matheny to make it 4-1 Lowell. The River Hawks bullpen got warmed in a hurry, Draper stopped the rally by getting Connor Aoki to ground out to SS to end the inning.
Draper finished the job by getting Binghamton in the eighth and ninth innings. He allowed three more hits but made the pitch when he had to and kept the Bearcats from getting any closer. He would pitch three innings to pick up his first save of the year throwing 51 pitches and getting 35 for strikes. His coach was very happy with his turnaround. Herring pointed out “we worked on things in the bullpen.” Arms in the pen will be big for UMass Lowell over the final two months of the season.
UMass Lowell has the week off from games, they will get a chance to practice before they head back out on the road to face NJIT on Friday to begin a three-game series in New Jersey.
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