NJIT

NJIT Takes Series Opener, 10-4 over UMass Lowell

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In the world of small conference mid-major college baseball, bullpens are a big factor in how good or bad teams do. In the case of the UMass Lowell River Hawks (21-26, 10-11), it is starting to become the one thing that is stopping this team from becoming a really good baseball team. In 4.2 innings of pitching in a Friday afternoon game vs NJIT (20-24, 9-9), the bullpen allowed seven earned runs and walked another seven hitters. It turned a 1-0 River Hawks lead into a 10-4 loss

After the game, head coach Nick Barese said “They did not attack the strike zone” when talking about his pen. He had very little to say in a positive tone about his bullpen. Based on the way they performed, the less said the better. Starting pitcher Michael Simes (2-4) did what he could to keep his team in the lead. His coach mentioned that “He did not have his best stuff” but he competed. Simes went 5.1 innings, allowing five hits, and three earned runs, with four walks and four strikeouts. He was able to stay out of trouble by making pitches when he needed to. Case in point, with the bases loaded in the second inning, he got Cole Flemming to hit into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.

In the end, his ability to escape jams would eventually dry up. That happened with one out in the sixth with his team up 1-0. A single by the number three hitter Albert Choi was followed by back-to-back walks to the next two hitters. Barese had a decision to make and he decided to go to the pen and bring in Kevin Zarnoch. The move did not pan out. Zarnoch would give up consecutive base hits to AJ Soldra (2-4, RS, 2 RBI) and to pinch hitter Cole Campbell. Both hits were 2-run singles that made it a 4-1 in the sixth. 

While the Highlanders offense was doing their part, so was their starting pitcher Aidan Kidd (3-4). He gave up seven hits, one earned run, one walk, and had six strikeouts. He threw strikes and got rewarded for it. The only run he allowed came in the third inning. Alex Luccini (2-5, 2 RBI, RS,)  singled to left, then stole second base and scored on an RBi single up the middle by Carlos Martinez (3-5, 1 RBI).  At the time it gave the home team a 1-0 lead.  

In the seventh, NJIT tacked on a couple of more runs. There was a solo HR by Kevin Putsky to right field off of Cam Sime. The home run was his 11th of the season. It made it a 5-1 Highlanders lead. They added another run on a bases-loaded walk to Ty Sallie surrendered by fifth River Hawks pitcher of the day, James Capellupo. 6-1 after seven innings.

UMass Lowell attempted to make things interesting in the bottom of the eighth against Highlanders relief pitcher Joe Georgini (3 innings, 5 hits, 3 earned runs, 1 strikeout). Three straight hits by Scott Donahue (2-5, RS), Ryan Strand (2-5, RS), and PH Anthony Marcano loaded the bases with one out. A sac-fly from Connor Kelly brought home one run. Luccini drove home the other two with a 2-run single to center field. At the time, the River Hawks were down two at 6-4 after eight.

NJIT put the game out of reach in the ninth. A four-run inning off of Brian Foley gave the Highlanders a 10-4 lead. Foley gave up two hits and walked two. He had trouble throwing strikes, and it cost him. The final score from LeLacheur Park was NJIT 10, UMass Lowell 4. 

Coach Barese talked about the offense and the runners left on base which on Friday was 14. There is no question that number is too high. There is “room for improvement” and he feels like his offense is getting better with every game. His pitching may be another story. With the postseason tournament two weeks away, finding arms that can get hitters out needs to be solved.

Saturday afternoon will be game two of the series. Freshman Alfred Muccarone will get the start for the River Hawks.

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