After the disaster that took place on Saturday afternoon, the UMass Lowell River Hawks (17-31) looked ready to play on Sunday afternoon at Lelacheur Park. Although the results were not what the team was hoping for, the effort was much better. The 7-5 loss to Hofstra University (26-24) was at least not handed away like Saturday’s results. UMass Lowell played a clean game on the field. They had a lead in the ballgame as late as the sixth inning, and they forced the Pride to execute to win the game, which is what they did.
LJ Keevan got the start for the River Hawks, and after watching the past couple of days you had to wonder what was going through his mind as he tried to put a game plan together to attack the Pride lineup. His outing did not get off to a good start. With two out in the first, he walked catcher Kevin Bruggeman to bring RF Steve Harrington to the plate. With the count in his favor at 3 and 1, Harrington blasted one over the wall in right field for his seventh HR of the season and the Pride was up 2-0.
Hofstra went with RHP Tristan Nemjo on Sunday, He too got off to a shaky start in the bottom of the first. River Hawks head coach Ken Harring made some lineup changes that paid off early. 2B Robert Gallagher dropped down a bunt to start things, stole second then scored on a single to center field by Jacob Humphrey (4-for-4, 1 RS, 3 RBI). 2-1 Pride after one.
The River Hawks took their first lead of the weekend in the fourth. Humphrey reached on an infield single to SS, then stole his second base of the afternoon, and advanced to third on a throwing error by Bruggeman. He scored on a base hit to left by DH Frank Wayman to tie the game at 2-2. Wayman then stole his first base of the season and was brought home by a base hit to left by Connor Kelly and the River Hawks had a 3-2 lead. They added to the lead in the fifth. Rob Geisler, who received a rare start behind the plate for the River Hawks, singled to center to start the inning. He was then sacrificed to second by Gallagher and then scored on Humphrey’s third hit of the game. UMass Lowell was up 4-2.
Keevan was doing his job on the mound. In the sixth, he started to fatigue a bit and the Hofstra lineup took advantage. With one out, three straight hits, with one being an RBI hit from Anthony D’Onofrio (2-for-4, 1 RBI, RS) cut the lead to 4-3 and ended the day for Keevan (5.1 IP, 10 hits, 4 earned runs, 1 BB, 2 SO). Brendon Williams came on from the River Hawks pen. He would give up the tying run on a base hit to center field by 1b Zack Bailey. The game was now brand new at 4-4. After six pretty good innings from Nemjo (seven hits, four earned runs, three strikeouts, and zero walks), the Pride bullpen was called upon to keep the game right where it was. They would do just that. But not before they ran into some trouble in the eighth.
John Mikolaicyk was in to pitch the eight for the Pride. He walked the first two hitters he faced to set the River Hawks in great shape for a big inning. Harring went to his bench and called on Jake Fitzgibbons to bunt. The count got to 3-1 and Harring elected to keep the bunt on instead of taking it off. After the game, he said, “I did not think of taking the bunt off.” Fitzgibbons bunted the next pitch to the third baseman Ryan Morash who was charging. He gloved the bunt and forced Humphrey at third. Brandon Fish would then follow with a single to left. However, Mikolaicyk escaped the jam by getting Kelly to strike out swinging, then Alex Luccini to foul out to the third baseman Morash. A tough break for UMass Lowell.
In the ninth, the Pride’s experience took advantage of freshman pitchers Michael Simes and Jacob Jette to put up a three-spot to take a 7-4 lead. Simes retired the first hitter he faced, then walked Santino Russo and hit Bruggeman. Jette was brought on to replace Simes. He would wild pitch the runners up a base each, Then Harrington (2-for-5, 1 RS, 4 RBI) came through with a 2-run RBI single to center field to give his team the lead back at 6-4. They would tack on one more run, as pinch runner Frank Dimartino would steal home on the back end of a double steal to give Hofstra a three-run lead at 7-4 heading to the bottom of the ninth.
Hofstra called on their closer Michael O’Hanlon to close things out. He would give up a run in the ninth with two outs. He walked Trey Brown who then advanced to second on defensive interference, and scored on Humphrey’s fourth hit of the game, a single to left center field. Ryan Proto represented the tying run at the plate for the River Hawks and hit a fly ball to fairly deep left field that was caught for the final out by D’Onofrio. Hofstra takes the series sweep with a 7-5 victory. Mikolaicyk gets the win and he is 1-5. O’Hanlon gets save number six on the year. Simes takes the loss and he is 2-3.
After the game, Coach Harring liked the overall effort of his team. He thought Keevan “was pretty good.” He praised the Pride for “the way they executed all series long.” He thought the difference in the series was the ability to execute when the situation called for it. Hofstra was able to do that and the River Hawks were not. Harring also pointed out the experience the Pride had, 10 graduate players, and six seniors as a key to their success. It’s a team that was in an NCAA regional last spring, so they know what this time of year is all about.
UMass Lowell has four games left in the regular season beginning with Northeastern on Tuesday before ending their season with three at home with Binghamton starting on Thursday afternoon.
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