UMass Lowell

NJIT Takes Series With UMass Lowell After 13-10 Win

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As is the case at any level of baseball, pitching is key. If you have it, you can go a long way. If you don’t, then it becomes a struggle. In the case of the UMass Lowell River Hawks (22-27, 11-12), pitching has been at the forefront of the team’s failures. On Sunday afternoon, it reared its ugly head one more time. Eight walks, three hit batters and one balk helped the NJIT Highlanders (21-25, 10-10) to a 13-10 victory and a series win. The series win by the Highlanders is important because it vaulted NJIT into third place in the conference ahead of the River Hawks.

Head coach Nick Barese of UMass Lowell called the performance by his pitching staff “Embarrassing.” Their inability to throw strike one, never mind enough strikes, forced his offense to score a lot of runs just to keep the team in the game. While the offense did their part by scoring ten runs and banging out 13 hits, a little help from the four pitchers that toed the rubber on Sunday could have turned a loss into a win for the River Hawks.

UMass Lowell got off to a great start against Drew Standen. With one down, Fritz Genther reached on an infield single to SS. Alex Luccini then walked. Carlos Martinez brought them both home on a 2-RBI double to the gap in left-center field. The double for Martinez was his 25th of the season which is a new program record. 2-0 UMass Lowell after one inning.

The problems began with the starter for UMass Lowell on Sunday, Miles Cota. After a three-up and three-down first, he ran into trouble in the second. The Highlanders would bat around scoring six times on four hits. There was a key error by River Hawks second baseman Roddy Hernandez as he failed to cover second base on what should have been an around-the-horn double play. The RBI hits for NJIT came off the bats of AJ Soldra, a 2-run double down the right field line, and a Cota balk brought home another run. Dillion Can, with an RBI infield single, and Albert Choi with an RBI double down the left field line. Choi’s extra-base hit ended Cota’s day. Brendan Holland was first out of the UMass Lowell bullpen and he gave up a sac-fly to Kevin Putsky (3-for-5, 3 RBI) for the final run of the frame. 6-2 NJIT after two.

NJIT tacked on another run in the third on a sac fly by Can that scored Luke Longo. It was now 7-2 NJIT. The UMass Lowell offense started to chip away at the lead. Sean O’Leary homered to right field off of Liam Reiner who replaced Standen after he went the first three and gave up three hits and two earned runs. 7-3 NJIT. In the fifth, Martinez came through again. This time with an RBI single to left that scored Henandez who started the inning by being hit by a pitch. 7-4 NJIT.

NJIT got that run back in the sixth vs Zach Fortuna on a home run by Cade Ladehoff to left. The HR was his 11th of the season. It was now back to a four-run game at 8-4 NJIT. Other than that pitch to Ladehoff, Fortuna did his job. He calmed the game down by going 3.1 innings giving four hits, one earned run, and one HR. It allowed his team to get back into the game.

Which is exactly what happened in the seventh for UMass Lowell. Facing the third Highlanders pitcher of the day, Talon Mihalinac, the River Hawks bats went to work. With two on and one out, Ryan Proto delivered a run-scoring double to center field scoring Luccini. It was now 8-6 NJIT. Milhalinac was replaced by Colin Kidd. The first batter he faced was O’Leary and he whacked a single to right that scored Martinez and Proto to tie the game at 8-8. O’Leary had a 4-for-5, 5 RBI, and 3 runs scored day.

With the game now tied, Barese had a decision to make. Who would be the guy to get the outs needed to give his team a chance to win this game? Andres Hulfachor (3.1 IP, 4 hits, 5 runs, 1 earned, 2 walks) was given the opportunity. After getting the first out, Hulfachor then walked Longo who to this point was 1-for-22 vs the River Hawks. The walk proved costly. After a line out to 2B by Soldra, the next five hitters in the NJIT lineup reached base by hit or walk. Can had an RBI single to center. Ladenhoff reached on a throwing error by River Hawks 3B Brandon Fish. He bobbled Ladenhoff’s ground ball, instead of trying to tag the runner going by him. He decided to make the throw across the diamond, which was low, and one hop 1B Connor Kelly. The bad throw scored two more runs for NJIT. Kevin Putsky added to the misery by doubling to center field driving home two more. Putsky finished the day 3-5 , with 3 RBI. When the inning finally ended, NJIT now had a 13-8 lead and we went to the bottom of the ninth inning.

That lead was shaved to three on O’Leary’s second home run of the day. A 2-run shot to right field now gives him four HRs on the year. The home run came off Joe Georgini who picked up the win (6-2) by going 2.2 IP, 2 hits, 2 earned runs, and 3 strikeouts. The final score from Lelacheur Park was NJIT 13 and UMass Lowell 10. Hulfachor took the loss and he is now 0-1.

Coach Barese is frustrated with the inconsistency of his pitching staff. He does not want to have to rely on his offense to win games. Especially when the America East Tournament begins in a week and a half. But as it stands now, that might be the only way the River Hawks can advance in the postseason. UMass Lowell is finished with conference baseball.

Next week they will play three non-conference games to finish the regular season. First up will be Northeastern on Tuesday. Then a doubleheader vs Marist on Thursday afternoon.

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