It never fails in the game of baseball, good starting pitching always leads to positive things for the team that gets it. On Saturday afternoon, the UMass Lowell River Hawks (15-28, 8-12) received such an outing from right-hander Joshua Becker. The graduate student went eight innings of six-hit, one-run baseball, walked two, and struck out six. It was his second straight very good outing when his team needed it most. He threw 94 pitches, 57 for strikes. He was ahead of the Highlanders hitters all day and his mates gave him enough run support to earn a 5-1 victory over NJIT (19-25, 8-9) to give UMass Lowell a much-needed series win.
After the game, head coach Ken Harring said it best, “A great start from Becker, he set the tone.” Indeed he did. Becker had four one-two-three innings. His only hiccup was in his last inning of work, which was the eighth when he allowed the Highlanders’ only run of the game. By then, the River Hawks had a 5-0 lead. He also saved the bullpen for Sunday’s finale vs NJIT as the River Hawks will go for the weekend sweep. The offense for UMass Lowell came through when they had to. They faced a good left-hander in Aiden Kidd (5-2) who on this day was simply outpitched by Becker (4-2) Kidd went five, allowed five hits and three earned runs. He walked three and struck out eight. If there was a negative on the day for the River Hawks it could be the 11 strike out by the lineup. While they did score five runs, they also left some opportunities to get away.
UMass Lowell broke through in the fourth. Back-to-back walks to Gerry Siracusa (2-for-3, 2 RS, 3 RBI) and Fritz Genther gave catcher Ryan Proto an RBI chance. Proto came through with an RBi single to center field that scored Siracusa with the game’s first run off of Kidd. In the very next inning, Kidd ran into more trouble. A leadoff triple by Jacob Humphrey who came around to score on a Siracusa’s single to right field made it 2-0 River Hawks. Kidd wild-pitched Siracusa into scoring position. Genther brought him home with a sac-fly to center. The River Hawks had a 3-0 lead after five.
The way Becker was dealing, the three runs would be enough. Just to make sure, UMass Lowell tacked on two more in the seventh vs Highlanders relief pitcher Grant Vurpillat. Siracusa came through again with a 2-run RBI single to left that scored both Roddy Hernandez who led off with a single to left and Humphrey who had walked. Both runners moved up a base on a Trey Brown sac-bunt. The River Hawks now had a 5-0 lead. NJIT’s lone run came in the eighth off Becker. Michael Doyle (2-for-4, 1 RS) singled to left to begin the frame. He advanced to third on an Andrew Elcock base hit to center. Doyle scored on a base hit to right field by Kevin Putsky. 5-1 Lowell. Jacob Jette came out of the River Hawks pen to throw 13 pitches in the ninth and shut the door on a 5-1 win for the River Hawks.
The victory means even more for UMass Lowell because UAlbany lost to Binghamton 7-5. The River Hawks now have a three-game lead on the Great Danes for the final spot in the America East Baseball Tournament. On Sunday, Miles Cota gets the start for the River Hawks. First pitch is set for high noon.
Here is John Doucdette’s postgame interview with coach Harring:
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