JMU baseball led for most of the afternoon, but couldn’t close things out on Sunday in a 7-6 loss to UMass Lowell. The Dukes fell to 12-8 with the loss and hope to regain momentum as conference play approaches.
Senior right fielder Adam Sisk got the Dukes out in front early with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first inning. The bats went quiet for JMU afterwards, as the Dukes were held without another hit until the fourth inning.
“I think I had a good approach today,” Sisk said. “I’ve had a good couple of games with some hard-hit balls that’ve been unlucky. I stuck with my approach and got a pitch I could handle … I’m glad I got a good swing on it and could boost our team from the get-go.”
Meanwhile, UMass Lowell got back in the game with an RBI on a fielder’s choice hit by freshman shortstop Joey Castellanos in the second inning and an RBI double from sophomore left fielder Cam Climo in the third.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, JMU loaded the bases with one out and sophomore outfielder DaVonn Griffin at bat. After Griffin went down swinging, Sisk came through in the clutch once again with a double laced down the left-field line, bringing all three baserunners home and giving JMU a 4-2 lead.
In his fourth start of the season, freshman pitcher Nick Stewart’s outing was full of ups-and-downs as he allowed four runs and five hits but struck out 10 batters. Stewart pitched well through four innings, but gave up two runs on two hits in the top of the fifth inning.
“I thought Stewart did an amazing job,” head coach Marlin Ikenberry said. “When you get that type of a performance out of a freshman, he should [pitch] into the sixth or seventh inning. Unfortunately, his pitch count got up and he got a little tired.”
Redshirt freshman pitcher Nick Robertson came in for relief of Stewart and surrendered no runs and just two hits in a 3.1-inning performance, his longest outing and best statistical game of the season.
“It's probably one of the better [performances] that I’ve had,” Robertson said. “[I was] able to watch the defense make plays behind me, I had a lot of trust.”
JMU scored one run in the bottom of the sixth inning to take a 5-4 lead, but the Dukes stranded runners on second and third after a strike out from sophomore left fielder Harry Brown. Still, with Robertson looking comfortable on the mound, the lead appeared to be safe.
Sisk played hero once again, this time in the outfield, by gunning down junior infielder Russ Olive at home plate in the eighth inning. This outstanding play protected JMU’s lead and appeared to put the River Hawks away for good.
“I got a good jump on the ball off the bat,” Sisk said. “I got a good hop and just tried to hit [first baseman] Michael Morgan. Our outfield coach D-Bow [assistant coach Daniel Bowman] always talked about how throwing a guy out on defense is [as important as] hitting a homerun.”
However, Olive would have the last laugh, putting UMass Lowell in front for good with a two-run home run in the ninth inning. An insurance run in the bottom of the eighth extending JMU’s lead to two runs wouldn’t be enough.
“We won the weekend against a really good team,” Ikenberry said. “We were one pitch away from sweeping them, and they’re a good club. It was a situation where our pitcher mislocated a pitch and their best hitter hit it, and that’s just baseball.”
Junior closer Matt Marsili was credited with a blown save after surrendering three hits and three runs in the top of the ninth. JMU looks to get back to its winning ways on Wednesday against Richmond at 4 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Park.