It takes 27 outs to secure a win in baseball and sometimes it’s easy and other times it’s not. The UMass Lowell River Hawks (14-19, 7-8 in AE) have found getting the last few outs to win games a bit of a challenge. The back end of the River Hawks bullpen has sprung too many leaks over the course of the season for anyone to feel comfortable with. On Sunday afternoon at Lelacheur Park, the back-end troubles of Lowell’s pen took away a chance to sweep a series from the Hartford Hawks (5-24, 4-11 in AE). Derek Tenney’s HR to right field off Matt Draper was the difference in a 13-12 win for the Hawks.
This game had everything, both good and bad. The River Hawks jumped all over Hartford starter Manny Corporan who contributed to his own misery by walking four hitters and hitting two others. In the first inning alone, Lowell did everything they could to put this game away early. They scored seven runs and stole seven bases. They were helped along by two Hawks errors and managed three hits. A great way to start a ball game. Lowell sent Joshua Becker to the hill with seven runs to work with right away. Becker would give three of those runs back in the second inning. Jose Santiago started it all with a double to right field. One out later, he advanced to second on a walk, then scored on a single to center by Hawks catcher Kevin Koziol. Noah Rivera crossed home plate on a base hit to left by Joseph Woronick, and the third run of the frame was brought home on a sac-fly to left field by Devin Kellogg. It was 7-3 Lowell going to the bottom of the second.
Hartford head coach Steve Malinowski made a pitching change after the River Hawks added to their lead with two more runs in their half of the second. Base hits by members of the bottom of the Lowell batting order did the damage. Roddy Hernandez, with an infield hit to the shortstop hole, scored Jimmy Sullivan who had walked to begin the inning. Alex Luccini (3-4, 1 RBI) singled to center to drive in Fritz Genther (4-4, 4 RS, 3 RBI) to make it 9-3 River Hawks. Corporan was finished for the day (2 IP, 5H, 9R, 8ER, 4BB, 1SO, 2HBP). Out of Hartford’s pen came freshman Edwin Almanzar Jr. to start the third. He would give up the River Hawks tenth run on an RBi hit to center field by Gerry Siracusa that scored Jacob Humphrey to make it a 10-3 game for Lowell.
Becker found a groove and would throw shutout baseball in the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. His mates added another run in the fourth off of Almanzar on a double to right by Genther with one out. After Hernandez struck out, Luccini dropped a bunt down the third base line that Almanzar fielded and threw wildly to first. The bad throw allowed Genther to score from second base with the eleventh run of the game. Becker ran into trouble in the seventh. After getting the first two hitters out, the next four Hawks hitters reached base by way of a hit, scoring three runs in the process to make this an 11-6 Lowell lead. The big hits for Hartford came from Tenney (4-6, 5RBI, 4RS) with a double to right field that drove home two, and a base hit to right by Tremayne Cobb Jr that scored Tenney.
A key play in the game took place in the bottom of the sixth. Cedric Rose saw his 18-game hitting streak come to an end. He hit a fly ball down the right-field line that was missed by Hartford RF Daniel Burnett. The three-base error had the River hawks in business once again. Only this time, a mental mistake cost them. Brandon Fish, the next hitter, hit what should have been a sac-fly to left field. But an appeal from the Hartford bench saw Rose called out for leaving the base early and the run was taken off the board. Coach Ken Harring said, “that play changed the momentum of the game.”
In the eighth, Harring called Hayden Duke out of the pen. All he did was put the first three men on by way of a HBP, single to center, and a walk. Duke did get the next two batters by way of strikeout and it looked like he was going to escape. But an 0-2 pitch to leadoff hitter Martin Chavarria, who replaced Logan Cole, hit him in the shin. Duke then gave up a run-scoring hit to Tenney. Duke was taken out and Sal Fusco was brought in. Fusco gave up a two-run hit to center by Jake Santiago, then a walk before his day was done. Matt Draper became the third River Hawks reliever of the inning. He would get the final out, but not before the lead was gone and Hartford was ahead 12-11. After the game, Harring said, “we are trying different combinations to try and solve the eighth inning difficulties.”
With Almanzar still on the mound, the River Hawks tied the game on the shortest inside the park home run you will ever see. With the wind howling out to right field all game long, Fritz Genther hit what should have been a routine fly ball to right-center. The wind got hold of that fly ball and took it in toward the RF line. The ball fell just inside the line and bounced away from two Hartford fielders all the way to the River Hawks bullpen. Genther flew around the bases and dove headfirst to home plate to tie the game at 12-12.
That same wind came back to help the Hawks out in the tenth. Tenney, with one down, hit a towering fly ball to right that got up into the wind and sailed over the wall in right for a home run that gave Hartford a 13-12 lead. Almanzar set down Lowell in order in the bottom of the tenth to pick up the win that seemed improbable when he entered the game back in the third.
Afterward, Harring said, “tip your cap to Almanzar.” He went eight innings and threw 115 pitches. 73 were for strikes in picking up his second win of the season against one loss. Matt Draper took the loss and he is now 1-4. Lowell has a couple of mid-week games to regroup from this tough loss. First, they will head to Bryant College on Tuesday to face the newest member of the conference come July 1. The next home game will be Wednesday afternoon vs Rhode Island before they head to Maine for a big weekend series.
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