Pair Of Five-Run Innings Lift UMass Baseball Over NJIT, 10-4
March 29, 2013
AMHERST, Mass. - The UMass baseball team celebrated its return to Earl Lorden Field with a 10-4 victory over NJIT on Friday afternoon in the squad's home opener. Following the win, the Minutemen improve to 2-12 on the season, while the Highlanders fall to 6-13.
NJIT began the contest by pushing across a run without a hit in the top of the first. Ed Charlton was hit by a pitch to leadoff the inning, stole second and scored on a fielder's choice ground ball with one away.
The Highlanders then increased their lead to 2-0 in the fifth as Matt Weckerle sent a ball to the fence in right center for a double to open up the frame and later scored on a throwing error after advancing to third on a ground ball.
However, after logging just one hit in the first four innings, UMass responded in its next turn at bat by scoring five runs on five hits and sending 10 batters to the plate. Junior Kellen Pagel started the inning with a leadoff walk, and sophomore Paul Kanakopulos followed with a double to give the Minutemen two runners in scoring position with no outs. Freshman John Jennings put UMass on the board with a single through the left side and redshirt junior Ryan Cusick lofted a ball over the head of Charlton in center to drive in a pair with triple that gave the squad a 3-2 lead. Junior Rob McLam plated Cusick with a two-out single to left and later scored on an RBI single by redshirt sophomore Adam Picard after stealing second.
With runs in the seventh and eighth, NJIT closed the gap to 5-4. Nick Swim reached on an error to start the top of the seventh and came in on a double play ball later in the frame. Then in the eighth, the Highlanders started with a leadoff walk to pinch hitter Jake Stern and a single by Zach Renna. UMass hurler Aaron Plunkett subsequently lost his footing on the mound, resulting in a balk that put the tying runs in scoring position for NJIT with no outs. Andrew Benjamin drove in the Highlander's fourth run with a ground ball that also moved the potential tying run to third.
However, the Minutemen escaped the jam without further damage as a grounder to shortstop and a running grab in foul territory by Yanakopulos ended the threat.
UMass then broke the game open with another five-run inning in the bottom of the eighth, capitalizing on three NJIT errors. Yanakopulos dropped a one-out single into center and scored from second on a wild throw as Jennings legged out an infield single. Cusick drew a two-out walk and senior Rich Graef hustled to first on a strikeout, reaching on a ball misplayed by the catcher Renna that extended the inning and allowed Jennings to score. McLam reached on an error that scored both Cusick and Graef, stole second and then came in on an RBI single up the middle by junior Nik Campero.
Junior DJ Jauss started on the mound and earned the win (1-2) for the Minutemen as he limited the Highlanders to three runs, one earned, on two hits with five walks and a career-high seven strikeouts over 6.2 innings. Plunkett worked the final 2.1 innings and picked up his first career save. He allowed one run on one hit, walked one and struck out one.
Tripp Davis took the loss (0-4) for NJIT. He surrendered five runs on eight hits with three walks and two strikeouts in seven innings on the hill.
The bottom of the UMass order--Yanakopulos, Jennings and Scifo--combined for a 6-for-12 afternoon at the plate with four runs scored and an RBI as all three hitters went 2-for-4 on the day. Campero was the fourth Minuteman to contribute a multi-hit effort, going 2-for-4 as well with an RBI and Cusick was 1-for-3 with two walks, two RBI and scored twice. Renna (2-for-3) had two of the Highlanders' three hits in the contest.
UMass and NJIT will be back in action tomorrow, March 30, with a doubleheader at noon to close out the weekend series.
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