Minutemen Walk Off Again, 2-1, Sweep La Salle
April 7, 2012
AMHERST, Mass. - For a second straight game, junior Rich Graef crossed the plate for the winning run as the UMass baseball team posted another walk off victory, 2-1 over La Salle to complete the series sweep of the Explorers (15-16, 3-6 A-10) on Saturday afternoon at Earl Lorden Field. Sitting in first place in the Atlantic 10 standings with a record of 5-1, the Minutemen are off to their best start to conference play since 1998 and improve to 9-10 overall.
With one down in the bottom of the ninth, Graef drove the first pitch of his at bat up the middle for a single. With redshirt sophomore Ryan Cusick at the plate, Graef stole second, drawing a throw from La Salle catcher Adam Kammler that sailed into the outfield. Centerfielder George Smith, Jr., mishandled the ball on the play, allowing Graef to score.
A pair of hits by senior Tom Conley and redshirt freshman Adam Picard in the bottom of the fourth helped UMass out to a 1-0 lead. Conley singled to shortstop and moved to third on a double down the left field line by Picard before coming home on a wild pitch with sophomore Dylan Begin at the plate.
After facing just one batter above the minimum through four, Minutemen starter Joe Popielarczyk pitched around a two-on, two-out jam in the fifth, but had an unearned run come across in the sixth as the Explorers tied the score at 1-1. Brendan Norton led off the frame with a single up the middle and went to third with no outs on a two-base error on a failed pick off. Then with one away, Jeff Flax drove in the run with a single up the middle. Popielarczyk escaped further damage, though, by inducing an inning-ending double play off the bat of Kammler.
The UMass right-hander once again worked out of trouble in the eighth, pitching around a single, an error and a walk to leave the bases loaded with Explorers. Popielarczyk threw eight innings in his start and scattered six hits with one walk and six strikeouts.
Senior Leif Sorenson fanned the first two he faced in the ninth before allowing a single to right by Jon Gyles. Gyles was quickly erased, though, caught stealing as Conley threw out his conference-leading 16th runner of the season. Sorenson went on to earn the win, moving to 2-2 on the year.
Dominic Sgroi took the loss (1-3) for La Salle after giving up the unearned run in 2.1 innings of relief. He allowed two hits, walked two and struck out two.
Junior Anthony Serino and Graef both finished the afternoon 2-for-4 at the plate as the Minutemen totaled eight hits. Flax hit 2-for-3 with an RBI for the Explorers and Gyles went 2-for-4.
UMass will be back in action on Tuesday, Apr. 10, when the squad will take on Northeastern in the opening round of the Beanpot. The contest is slated for 6 p.m. in Lowell, Mass.
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