On a wild Sunday afternoon at Lelacheur Park, a total of 349 pitches were thrown between the UMass Lowell River Hawks (16-28, 9-12) and the NJIT Highlanders (19-26, 8-10). The River Hawks were able to get the victory behind three big innings for a 17-8 win. The 17 runs are a season-high for UMass Lowell. The news keeps getting better for the River Hawks. Their win coupled with UAlbany loss at home to Binghamton, means that UMass Lowell has claimed a spot in the America East Baseball Tournament that gets started on May 24.
The River Hawks’ offense was the story this afternoon. They banged out 17 hits and all but one hitter, Jacob Humphrey, had at least one hit. Humphrey did not have a hit but was on base four times via the walk and scored three runs. 3B Fritz Genther had a four-hit, four runs scored, and three RBI day. His two-run HR to left in the fifth jump-started a five-run inning for the River Hawks. 2B Robert Gallagher had a three-hit, three runs scored, and two RBI day. His solo HR to right (his second of the year) in the first inning got the offense started. UMass Lowell plated runs in their last four innings totaling 15 of the 17 runs they scored on the day. As head coach Ken Harring said after the game “We can be a scary lineup when we get going.” However, the day was not a perfect one for the River Hawks. Pitching and some shakey defense early had the game in some doubt. The Highlanders batted around in both the third and fourth innings. Miles Cota got the start for the River Hawks and his coach said “he did not have it today.” Cota did start out strong setting down the first six hitters he faced. He ran into trouble in the third up 1-0 with the help of an error behind him. After issuing a leadoff walk to Jared Donnelly, catcher Cole Fleming was asked to bunt. He dropped a bunt to the third base side that Genther fielded and lobbed a throw over 1B Matt Tobin’s head for a throwing error. Three more walks did not help as well as an RBI single to right by Kevin Putsky. The inning ended with NJIT up 3-1.
In the fourth, the Highlanders batted around again against Cota and Michael Simms out of the River Hawks pen. Four more hits led to four more runs. There were two more walks mixed in and the River Hawks were down 7-2 after four innings. UMass Lowell then took the game over with their bats. Genther HR to left was his seventh of the year off of Highlanders starter Joe Georgini. Later in the inning, LF Trey Brown brought home another with a sac fly to left. DH Frank Wayman and SS Roddy Hernandez came through with RBI base hits and the game was tied at 7-7. Both starting pitchers left the game with ugly lines. Cota (3.2 IP, four hits, seven runs, six earned, six walks, three strikeouts) and Georgini (4.2 IP, six hits, seven runs, six earned, four walks, three strikeouts). The game was now in the hands of the bullpens of both teams.
The bullpen duel was won by the River Hawks. Simms and LJ Keevan were the better duo. They would combine to give up 11 hits and only one unearned run in five and a third innings. Neither pitcher issued a walk which was key, Keevan punched out three Highlanders hitters in his four innings on the mound. Keevan would get the win to improve to 2-5 on the year. His head coach is considering the idea of starting Keevan next weekend. The same can’t be said for the Highlanders pen. Five relievers came out of the pen and they went 3.1 innings allowing 11 hits and gave up 10 earned runs. The least affected was Grant Vurpillat (1.1 IP, three hits, four earned runs, three walks, and two strikeouts). He would be charged with the loss and he is now 2-2. UMass Lowell busted this game wide open with four-run innings in both the seventh and eighth innings to get the sweep.
With eight games left in the regular season, Coach Harring is still looking for wins. He also wants to get some players at-bats and some pitchers some work. The good news is their seasons will continue at least through May 24. On Tuesday night, the River Hawks will meet UMass Amherst with first pitch set for 6 PM.
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