BALTIMORE – Looking to fight its way back into the four-team America East playoff picture, the UMBC baseball team returns to action with a key three-game series at second-place Hartford this weekend. The Retrievers and Hawks are scheduled to play a doubleheader at Fiondella Field on Saturday beginning at 12:00 p.m., and then will finish up the series with a single game on Sunday.
UMBC (13-21, 6-9 AE) had both of its mid-week games cancelled this week due to heavy rains in the Baltimore area and is looking to avenge last weekend's sweep to UMass Lowell. The Retrievers fell back to sixth in the seven-team conference standings after the three losses.
UMBC swept its last road series, a three-game set at Albany on April 12-13, and then added a single-game road win at George Washington on April 15 to improve to 6-12 in road games on the season.
Hartford (24-17, 10-4 AE) is on a three-game slide as well after dropping the final two games of last weekend's series at Binghamton and then falling on Tuesday at Northeastern, 4-3. Saturday's game will be the Hawks' first game at Fiondella Field since sweeping Albany two weeks ago on April 19-20. Hartford is 11-5 at home this season.
The Hawks swept the three-game series between the two clubs in Connecticut last season, but UMBC answered by winning two of three in Baltimore to maintain its lead in the all-time series, 23-19. All but two of the meetings (both UMBC home wins in 2001) have come since 2004 when the Retrievers joined the America East.
Senior Mac Gill (Bethesda, Md./Walter Johnson) returns to the game one slot for the Retrievers where he will face-off against Hawk junior lefty Sean Newcomb (4-2, 1.12 ERA). Gill (1-4, 4.70 ERA) threw 4.1 innings last weekend, giving up six earned runs on seven hits to UMass Lowell. He has not hurt himself this season, however, issuing just four walks, and ranks ninth in the nation in walks per nine innings pitched (0.78). Newcomb, meanwhile, has been the ace for Hartford and holds a 1.12 ERA, the 11th-best mark in the NCAA.
In game two of the doubleheader, sophomore Riley Stephenson (Frederick, Md./Boonsboro) takes the mound for UMBC and will be opposed by senior right-hander Brian Hunter (2-6, 3.90 ERA). Stephenson (2-4, 4.87 ERA) tossed his first career complete game last weekend, but lost as the Retrievers managed just one run in the game. The sophomore righty has gone at least six innings in three of his last four starts, earning the win against Albany on April 12 after limiting the Great Danes to two runs on seven hits in seven innings.
Sophomore left-hander Joe Vanderplas (Fairfax, Va./Fairfax/Tennessee) gets the ball in the finale while the Hawks will throw sophomore righty Kyle Gauthier (3-0, 1.99 ERA). Vanderplas (1-2, 3.45 ERA) earned his first career win for the Black and Gold two weeks ago, when he defeated Albany in the series finale, twirling seven scoreless innings and scattering seven hits.
The Retrievers were stymied in the first two games last weekend by the River Hawks, scoring just a single run in each contest of the doubleheader. In the finale, UMBC busted out for eight runs, building an 8-3 lead, but could not hold off the visitors. Sophomore Mark Esposito (Bethany, Conn./Amity Regional) went 3-for-5 in the game with two RBI while junior Vince Corbi (Medford, N.J./Shawnee) collected his 101st and 102nd career hits to drive in three.
Freshman Hunter Dolshun (Warwick, N.Y./Warwick Valley) returned to the lineup last weekend and leads the team with a .322 batting average. Despite a down batting average in all games, sophomore shortstop Kevin Lachance (Clifton, Va./Centreville) is hitting .327 against America East pitching.
The Hartford pitching staff has prompted the big improvement under third-year head coach Justin Blood. The Hawk staff is pitching to a 2.92 team ERA, led by Newcomb. Sam McKay has been key for Hartford out of the pen, making 15 appearances and working 31.0 innings to a 1.74 ERA.
David McKinnon has jumped into the Hawk lineup and provided a pick-up, hitting .367 with eight doubles and 15 RBI.
- Hartford has won the last five games between the two clubs in the Constitution State with the Retrievers taking a 7-3 win in game one of a four-game set in 2012.
- UMBC went 7-6 in the month of May in 2013.
- The Retrievers are 7-2 when holding opponents to two runs or less.
- UMBC is 4-5 against left-handed starters in 2014.
- Junior Jake Barnes has 11 two-out RBI this season.