Sometimes in the game of baseball, it’s the decisions you make before the game that are just as important as the ones made during the game. On Saturday afternoon in Lowell, the weather forecast was not great. Instead of fighting the raindrops and maybe getting nowhere, both UMass Lowell (11-16, 5-6 in AE) and UMBC (12-17, 4-7 in AE) decided to reschedule the game from an afternoon game to an early evening one. The result was an uninterrupted nine-inning game that the River Hawks held on to win 7-6. For UMass Lowell, it was their second straight one-run victory in this series. Their coach Ken Harring likes that with “22 new players on the roster this team is learning how to win these kinds of games.” He believes, and with good reason, how helpful this could be later on this season.
As has been the case recently, the River Hawks got length from their starting pitcher. Ryan Towle (2-4) went seven good innings of three-hit, three-run, only two earned, three walks, and six strikeouts baseball. His only bad inning was the third when he gave up an early lead. However, that did not last long as his mates picked him up and gave him the lead right back to work with. Retrievers starter Jayden Shertel (3-1) was not as lucky, going five giving up five earned runs on seven hits, two walks, a strikeout, and a hit batter. The River Hawks got to Shertel in the first inning. Jacob Humphrey (3-for-3, 2 RS) started the game with a double down the left-field line. He advanced to third on a ground out, then scored on an RBI single up the middle by Cedric Rose who extended his hitting streak to 18 games. 1-0 Lowell.
Towle’s bad inning, which was the third, got started by giving up a single to UMBC catcher Tony Krueger. The next batter, Matt Ryan, drove him home by tripling to right-center field to tie the game at 1-1. The number nine hitter, Christian Easley, hit a routine ground ball to 3rd baseman Robert Gallagher who was conceding the run, but his throw to first base sailed over the head of Rose for a throwing error. Ryan scored on the play and UMBC had a 2-1 lead. Easley moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a Drew Roberts ground out to second, 3-1 UMBC.
In the blink of an eye, the River Hawks took the lead back in the bottom of the third. It was the bottom of UMass Lowell’s order that started the rally. Alex Luccini singled to center field. Humphrey singled to right and Luccini went to third with Humphrey taking second on the throw. Both guys scored on a Gallagher double to the right-field corner. It was a 3-3 game. Gerry Siracusa singled to left to extend his hitting streak to seven games. The base hit scored Gallagher and gave UMass Lowell a 4-3 lead.
Towle settled down and allowed only one hit through the next four innings of work. Meanwhile, the River Hawks added to their lead vs Shertel. A Gallagher ground out in the fourth plated Roddy Hernandez who led off the inning by doubling to left field. 5-3 Lowell. In the sixth, against relief pitcher Owen Hamilton, a walk to Luccini was followed by a hit by pitch to Humphrey. Luccini would score on an infield hit by Siracusa (2-for-5, 2 RBI) to the SS hole. Third baseman Ryan made a diving stop but his throw was late to first. 6-3 Lowell. In the eighth, against the third Retrievers pitcher of the night Michael Schwartz, Humphrey was at it again. His third hit of the night was a one-out single to center. Then, he stole both second and third base (17-for-17 in SB) and scored one out later on a fielding error by Ryan. 7-3 Lowell.
Towle gave way after seven to the River Hawks pen. Zach Fortuna was brought on for the eighth and he set down the side on two ground balls and a strikeout. The ninth was a different story. The Retrievers got back into the game and made things a little dicey. A walk to Luke Johnson and then a hit by pitch to Justin Taylor brought Logan Doran to the plate. He drove a 2-1 pitch over the wall in left field for a 3-run home run that made this a one-run game at 7-6. Harring took Fortuna out and brought Matt Draper in. On Fortuna Harring said, “he did not have it for the ninth and I should have taken him out after the eighth.” Draper got the first man he faced, then walked Ryan. Pinch hitter Luke Trythall flew out deep to center field. Myles Nicholson reached on an infield hit to SS. With the tying run at second base, Draper ended the game by getting Drew Roberts to strike out swinging. The save was Draper’s second on the season.
After the game Harring praised the contribution up and down the lineup, singling out Humphrey who his coach says “has been remarkable as a freshman.” On Sunday, UMass Lowell goes for the sweep with Joshua Becker taking the mound. First pitch is set for noon.
Here is my post-game interview with coach Harring