Baseball: USM win streak snapped at 19, Lions triumph 6-1

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The USM baseball team last played the Wheaton College Lions on Thursday in Norton, Mass., routing them 15-3. On Sunday, they faced off again, with the Huskies holding on to a 19-game win streak as they took the field in Gorham.

Lions starter Mike Gibbons, backed by an errorless defense, wouldn’t allow that streak to go any further, holding the Huskies to one run on three hits over a strong six innings pitched. The tall right-hander walked only two batters and struck out two in those frames, working a sweeping curve and a good fastball that produced seven ground-outs.

Wheaton would go on to win 6-1 in front of a large crowd that witnessed USM’s first loss since March 24.

The Lions’ offensive push began on the second pitch of the game. USM starting pitcher Chris Bernard left a 0-1 fastball over the plate for Wheaton’s second baseman Matt Lavanchy who turned on it and sent it to the corner in right, speeding around for a standup triple. Co-captain Eric Jensen jumped on the very next pitch, grounding to short, but with the Husky defense playing back early in the game, Lavanchy scored easily.

The one Husky run came in the fifth off an Anthony Pisani ground-out, plating first baseman John Carey from third who led off the inning with a four-pitch walk, reached second on a Matt Verrier single and was sacrificed over when Troy Thibodeau laid down a bunt to the pitcher. That would do it for threats by the Husky offense for the day as they would finish the game going 1-for-12 with runners on base and 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

That run tied the game, but USM would never lead. Wheaton scored one run again in the seventh and never looked back from there. They plated four runs in the eighth inning on three hits and two walks off the five Husky pitchers needed to retire the side.
The trouble for USM really did seem to start off in the first, as the right-handed Bernard looked hurt when he came off the mound, favoring his throwing arm as he walked. He managed an at-bat in the bottom of the inning, grounding a 2-0 pitch weakly back to the pitcher for an out, but was not able to return to the hill in the second.
Trainers seemed to be looking at his elbow in the dugout. Bernard had gone 2-1 on the season for the Huskies with a 3.12 ERA entering the game.

Freshman southpaw Dan Kinnon came on to replace him and pitched through 3 and two thirds innings as a reliever, but approached each at-bat with a starter’s mentality. He pounded the strike zone early and worked both corners of the plate well. Manager Ed Flaherty took the ball from him in the fifth, and the crowd applauded Kinnon warmly as he returned to the bench.

Kinnon’s ERA dropped from 6.30 to 4.60 in this effort alone, and his K/9 rate, which sits at 7.87 after today, is the best of USM’s pitchers with more than 10 innings pitched.

Another streak was snapped on Sunday as well, with third baseman Nick Grady going hitless for the first time in 25 games, dropping his team-best batting average to .440.

Catcher Matt Verrier was the only player on the USM side with multiple hits, finishing 2-4 with a double in the seventh.

The Huskies’ record now stands at 25-4 overall with their seven-win undefeated conference line ensuring them a spot in the Little East Conference playoffs this May. This was the team’s first loss at home this season and the first loss overall since a 3-3 week in March.

During the Huskies’ 19-game winning streak, they outscored opponents 222-81. That streak is far from the Division III record set by Trinity in 2008 of 44 games won in a row but is still a baseball rarity, ending one shy of the modern major league record of 20 held by the Oakland Athletics.

USM’s next home game is scheduled for Tuesday at 3:30 against the University of Massachusetts Boston.

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