WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – The UMass Lowell River Hawks baseball team (23-26, 13-14 AE) clinched a spot in the 2022 America East Championship with a 6-2 win over the Hartford Hawks (9-35, 8-19 AE) on Sunday afternoon.
“Big team win today, we needed everyone,” said head coach Ken Harring. “Conor [Kelly] was huge with four RBIs taking over for Humphrey. [Michael] Quigley gave us a good start and Henry [Funaro] was fantastic. Great series win on the road, and we were able to clinch a spot in the playoffs.”
Freshman Conor Kelly (Hopkinton, Mass.) led the team with four RBIs and one hit in two at-bats. Fellow freshman Brandon Fish (Londonderry, N.H.) had a team-high two hits and added one RBI on the afternoon. Sophomore Fritz Genther (Kingston, N.Y.) scored two runs and added one hit and two stolen bases.
Sophomore Michael Quigley (Halifax, Mass.) got the start on the mound and threw 2.1 innings, striking out three and allowed one earned run. Senior Joshua Becker (Burlington, Mass.) threw 3.1 innings, sitting two and allowed one earned run. Graduate student Henry Funaro (Lowell, Mass.) closed the game for the River Hawks, throwing 2.0 innings and striking out three while allowing just one hit.
UMass Lowell opened the scoring for the third time in the series as Brandon Fish’s two-out single scored senior Gerry Siracusa (Kinnelon, N.J.) to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. In the bottom half of the inning, Michael Quigley struck out two and retired the side in order. After two scoreless innings for the River Hawks, sophomore Zach Fortuna (Newburyport, Mass.) took over on the bump, and back-to-back walks tied the game at one before a groundout ended the inning.
The River Hawks’ offense struggled to get going but had a chance to take the lead in the fourth. Junior Cedric Rose (Pittsfield, Mass.) was walked before advancing to third on two wild pitches. The junior was thrown out at home, trying to score on yet another wild pitch. Joshua Becker took over on the mound in the bottom of the fourth with two outs and got out of the inning with two pitches.
After junior Ryan Proto (Centerville, Mass.) was walked in the fifth, Fritz Genther hit a single to left to advance Proto to third. Genther then stole second, putting two runners in scoring position for the River Hawks with no outs. With the bases loaded, Conor Kelly singled up the middle to bring in Proto and Genther, giving UMass Lowell a 3-1 lead. Becker threw a scoreless sixth, sending the game into the seventh with the visitors ahead.
Genther was walked to open the seventh inning and advanced to third on a ground out and stolen base. Freshman Alex Luccini (Hopedale, Mass.) was then walked before Conor Kelly’s fly-out scored Genther, pushing the UMass Lowell advantage to 4-1. The Hawks answered as Brad Maycock’s solo shot in the bottom of the seventh made it a two-run game.
The River Hawks extended the lead in the eighth as Brandon Fish singled to left field to score senior Robert Gallagher (Mullica Hill, N.J.) for a 5-2 lead. Henry Funaro entered the game for the bottom of the eighth looking to preserve the lead for UMass Lowell. The veteran threw a 1-2-3 inning, striking out one to move to the ninth.
Sophomore Roddy Hernandez (Jersey City, N.J.) reached on an error to open the ninth before moving to second on a failed pickoff attempt. Alex Luccini then laid down a perfect bunt to put runners on the corners for Conor Kelly. The freshman’s sacrifice fly to left scored Hernandez, giving UMass Lowell a 6-2 lead.
Hartford opened the bottom half of the inning with a double to right field, putting a runner in scoring position early. Funaro struck out Cobb Jr. for the first out of the inning. Fritz Genther made a great diving grab for the second out of the inning, sending the Hawks down to their final out. Funaro struck out Hawes to secure the series win and give the River Hawks their spot in the 2022 America East Championship.
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