Ninth-Inning Rally Drives UMBC Past Maine, 6-5, to Close Regular Season

Sophomore Anthony Gatto
Sophomore Anthony Gatto

BALTIMORE – With the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth, freshman Jesse Smith (Mechanicsville, Va./Lee-Davis) beat out an infield single to allow Mark Esposito (Bethany, Conn./Amity Regional) to score from third and sophomore Anthony Gatto (Hauppauge, N.Y./Smithtown West) drove a two-RBI single to right center as the UMBC baseball team rallied for a 6-5 win over Maine, Saturday afternoon to at Mahaney Diamond to finish the 2013 regular season.

Maine (34-20, 20-9 AE), which clinched the America East regular-season title last weekend, advances to next week's conference tournament in Lowell, Mass., while UMBC's season has come to a close.

Junior Jon Cohn (Scottsdale, Ariz./Notre Dame Prep) came on in the eighth to relieve starter Mac Gill (Bethesda, Md./Walter Johnson), and despite surrendering one run, got the win after closing out the ninth.  The right-handed reliever caps the year with a 4-4 record and a 2.92 ERA, second-best on the club.

Entering the game with two on and one out in the top of the ninth, Tommy Lawrence (9-3) allowed both inherited runners to score, in addition to one more, and took the loss for Maine.

Gatto went 2-for-5 on the day, one of four Retrievers to collect multi-hit games.  Esposito also picked up two hits and scored three times as he also reached on a fielder's choice in the fifth.

After dropping both games of Friday's doubleheader, the Retrievers (18-30, 9-21 AE) got the scoring started in the top of the third.  With two away, Esposito started the rally by singling to center. Junior Rob McCabe (Philadelphia, Pa./St. Joseph's Prep) followed by drawing a full-count walk and then sophomore Jake Barnes (Annandale, Va./Annandale) yanked a single to left to bring in Esposito and give the visitors the lead.  Freshman Kevin Lachance (Clifton, Va./Centreville) pushed the lead to 2-0 by sending a single to right to bring McCabe around.

The lead did not last long, however, as Maine struck back for four runs in the bottom half of the inning.  Sophomore Michael Fransoso provided the big blow for the Black Bears, driving a two-out single to center to score two.

Two innings later, UMBC cut the lead to just one, 4-3, as Esposito, who reached on a fielder's choice and moved to second on a single, stole third and came home as the throw went into left field.

The score line stayed that way until the eighth when Maine scraped one run against Cohn as Shane Bussey connected for a base knock to right to score Colin Gay.

In the ninth, Fran Whitten came in to pitch for Luke Morrill who had held UMBC scoreless over two innings.  Whitten induced a ground out to retire the lead-off batter, but Esposito and McCabe then shot back-to-back singles up the middle to put two on and knock the right-hander out.  Lawrence came on and immediately got a pop to third to put two away, but he could not close it out.

The next batter, Lachance, drew a walk to load the sacks and then Smith used his speed to beat out a grounder to the left side and Esposito scored from third to cut the lead to 5-4.  Gatto continued the Retrievers' season with his two-out single with Lachance and McCabe scoring on the play and putting UMBC on top 6-5.

Cohn retired the first two batters in the bottom half on a pop up to first and one to short, then gave up a double, but recovered to get a ground out to short to end the game.

DAWG BITES

-          UMBC closes the season with a win for the first time since 2005 (13-6 vs. Hartford)

-          The Retrievers' 18 wins this season are their most since going 21-29 in 2008.

-          The win is just the Retrievers' fourth all-time against Maine and their first since splitting a four-game series in 2008.  The Black Bears had won 21-straight games.

-          UMBC also broke a 21-game losing streak to Binghamton earlier this spring.

-          UMBC is 28-72 in head coach Bob Mumma's first two years.  Under previous head coaches, the Retrievers went 5-14 under Tom Rider (1967-68), 29-29 under Hal Sparks (1976-77), and 42-17 under John Jancuska (1978-79).

-          Lachance finishes with a team-best .303 at the plate.  This is the second straight year a freshman has hit over .300 for the Retrievers (Anthony Gatto .303).

-          Gatto closes the year on a four-game hit streak.

-          The Retriever staff ends the year with a 4.78 ERA, down over four points from 2012 (9.01 ERA).