by Joshua Kummins
LOWELL, Mass. – Things got a little too comfortable in the later innings for the Massachusetts Minutemen but they were able to hold onto an 8-7 victory over the Harvard Crimson on Wednesday night at LeLacheur Park, capturing the annual Baseball Beanpot title for the fifth time in school history.
UMass dropped its semifinal contest in each of the last three years and earned the trophy for the first time since edging Boston College in 2008. The Minutemen replaced Boston University in the tournament upon the deletion of the school’s program in 1995.
In addition to the school’s five solo titles, the Minutemen were declared co-champions with the Crimson when the championship was rained out in 1998.
The Minutemen jumped out to a 1-0 lead right off the bat in the first inning thanks to three productive bunts at the top of the line-up. After center fielder Anthony Serino advanced the runners 90 feed, catcher Tom Conley hit a long sacrifice fly to left field to send in Rich Graef with the score.
UMass doubled its lead to 2-0 in the next inning as shortstop Nick Sanford softly grounded out on the infield and doubled it again in the third when designated hitter Adam Picard stroked a two-run home run off the left field scoreboard.
“He got the bat on the ball three out of five times, obviously with the home run,” said veteran Minuteman head coach Mike Stone, who is in the midst of his 25th season on the bench. “We had some good pitches to hit early in the game and handled those pretty well. He had a great day, he was just nice and relaxed in the box.”
The onslaught continued in the fifth inning as the Mass Attack added a fifth run via third baseman Nik Campero’s RBI double.
In the seventh, UMass broke the lead further open with three more scores against Harvard righty Sam Dodge, who starred for the New Bedford Bay Sox as an NECBL All-Star during the 2011 summer.
With one out, Adam Picard drove home a pair on a two-run single into the left-center field gap and Sanford drove home Picard on a fielder’s choice ball to second base.
Freshman Tim Cassidy came in and allowed the Crimson back into the ballgame with two hits and three runs while recording just two outs. Harvard batted around in the inning, closing within two runs of the Minuteman lead.
After the first two men singled their way on, first baseman Tanner Anderson made it three in a row as he knocked in the Crimson’s first run. As Cassidy entered, second baseman Jeff Reynolds doubled down the left field line and brought home two more runs. Sophomore shortstop Jake McGuiggan, who is also the Ivy League Player of the Week, drove home his only run of the contest on a sac fly to left field.
Catcher Steven Dill walked in the next at-bat and Cassidy’s brief outing ended as center fielder Jack Colton doubled home a pair on a liner deep into the outfield.
Senior closer Leif Sorenson came in to retire right fielder Ethan Ferreira on an infield groundout to end the inning. In the eighth, Reynolds lined a two-out single to left-center to close the scoring at 8-7.
“I was feeling real good when we were up 8-0,” Stone said of his team’s performance. “And then I started to not feel very good. It was nip-and-tuck there in the end. Harvard showed a lot there in coming back. Unfortunately, we did a lot early, we played hard, we had good pitching and all of a sudden we did not.”
Minuteman freshman Connor Leblanc cruised through the first five innings en route to his third win of the season thus far. He finished his outing with nine hits and three runs allowed over six innings while tying the UMass program’s Beanpot record with 11 strikeouts.
“He pitched great,” Stone added. “He showed signs of losing it a little bit as far as his command and that’s what got him in trouble in the seventh. We had to squeeze through a couple more outs to get to our closer.”
The record was previously set by Scott Barnsby in 1996 as he no-hit Northeastern in a 1-0 score to win the title at Fenway Park.
“I have not really been getting too many K’s this year, more just pitching to contact,” the Glastonbury, Conn. native said of his dominant performance on the hill. “The curveball felt good today and with location, my fastball was there…It’s cool to come out here and playing here makes you feel special.”
Harvard used seven pitchers in the contest with each reliever throwing an inning. Starter Danny Moskovits allowed six hits and four runs over three innings as he fell to 0-1.
Sorenson, a Haverhill, Mass. native and Vermont transfer, earned his sixth save of the season as he threw 2.1 innings of four-hit ball.
UMass improves to 12-13 on the season with their second victory in three games. They take their 6-3 conference mark into a three-game series at St. Louis this weekend. Harvard falls to 8-25 as the Crimson head into a four-game Ivy League series against rival Brown on Friday and Saturday in Cambridge.