May 20, 2009
DAYTON, Ohio - Second baseman Peter Copa stroked a two-run homer and senior Mitchell Clegg notched his seventh victory of the season as fourth-seeded Massachusetts edged No. 5 Fordham, 5-4, in the opening game of the 2009 Atlantic 10 Baseball Championship on Wednesday at Fifth Third Field.
Winners of seven straight contests and making its first appearance in the A-10 Championship since 2003, Massachusetts (26-24) will face top-seeded Dayton on Thursday at Noon. Fordham (22-31) will face the loser of this afternoon's Xavier-Charlotte contest later this evening in an elimination game.
Massachusetts jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first as senior Sam Boone led off the inning with a single, advanced to second on shortstop Adam Tempesta's single, and scored on an RBI groundout by Jim Macdonald. After going down in order through the first two innings, Fordham responded with a run in the third as senior John Kahn opened the frame with a single. He then advanced to second on a wild pitch and stole third before coming around to score on shortstop Brian Kownacki's run-scoring single to left.
A two-out RBI single by sophomore Chris Walker scored Kownacki in the fifth to give the Rams a 2-1 lead before Copa's fifth home run of the season with two out off of Fordham southpaw J.P. Mack put the Minutemen back in front, 3-2. Kownacki's second RBI single of the afternoon tied the game at 3-3 as leftfielder Alex Kenny tripled to open the seventh. UMass responded with a run in the bottom of the seventh to regain the lead as junior Brian Baudinet stroked a one-out double and came around to score on an RBI single by Macdonald.
Fordham threatened in the eighth as centerfielder Mike Mobbs singled and advanced to second on a pinch-hit single by freshman Ryan Maghini. UMass junior Bryan Leigh then came on in relief of Clegg and retired Kahn on a shallow fly to center to escape the jam. The Minutemen tacked on an insurance run in the ninth on an RBI hit by senior Tempesta off of Fordham freshman Daniel Munday, Tempesta's third hit of the afternoon.
A two-out RBI single by Walker in the ninth pulled the Rams to within 5-4. With runners at first and second and two outs, Leigh retired Fordham catcher Angelo Ponte on a ground out to second for his third save of the year. Clegg (7-1) allowed three runs on 10 hits over 7.2 innings and fanned seven.
"He did a great job for us. He struggled in one inning but bounced back and did a nice job executing a lot of key pitches," said UMass head coach Mike Stone, who seeks to lead the program to its first A-10 title since 1996.
Four different Minutemen collected multiple hits on the afternoon, led by Tempesta with three.
"Adam's just a clutch guy and has been all four years. He comes through in big situations and is someone you can always rely on," said Stone.
Mack (6-3) allowed four runs on eight hits in 6.1 innings and issued a pair of walks. The loss overshadowed a strong day at the plate by Kownacki, who went 3-for-4 with two RBI. The Rams registered 12 hits on the afternoon but left 10 runners on base.