KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Massachusetts countered Bucknell’s five-run ninth inning rally with a walk-off double by Connor Smith, and the Minutemen claimed a one-run slugfest for the third straight day, 12-11, to complete the sweep on Wednesday at Osceola County Stadium.
Tyler Wincig and JohnPaul Bell went a combined 6-9 at the plate with six runs batted in and two runs scored for the Bison (3-11). Luke Johnson remained hot going 3-5 with an RBI and a run scored. Starting pitcher Nicholas Sadd yielded only one earned run over 4.2 innings, and Mike Stephens pitched a scoreless inning in relief.
After taking a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning, an error by Bucknell’s defense and Sadd’s struggle with control contributed to consecutive four-run innings for the Minutemen (5-3). But the Bison got back in it with runs in the top of the fifth, sixth, and eighth innings.
After Evan Klugerman swatted an RBI single to left field in the fifth inning, Johnson smashed an RBI double down the left field line in the sixth. Then Bell hit a sac fly to center in the eighth to bring the Bison within two, 8-6.
But UMass, which scored three in the bottom of the eighth to win 9-8 a day earlier, had another late rally in its arsenal. RBI doubles by Luke Oliphant and Ryan Lever secured a five-run cushion for the Minutemen.
Down 11-6 and in need of some magic, Bucknell would put up a five-spot in the top of the ninth, sparked by a leadoff homer from Wincig, who went 4-5 with a home run, 3 RBIs, and a run scored. Klugerman followed suit with a triple to right field and scored on a throwing error by shortstop Lever to cut the deficit to 11-8. After Dominic Toso hit an RBI double to left center, Luke Hartman slapped one back up the middle to bring Toso across the plate and pull the Bison within a run.
Needing someone to pull through to force extra innings, Bell cranked a game-tying RBI-double down the right-field line. Connor Smith ultimately denied the Bison an opportunity to win in extra innings with a walk-off double in the bottom of the ninth.
Bell turned in his fourth multi-hit game of the season and is now on a seven-game hitting streak. Wincig is on a five-game hitting streak and is hitting .416 on the season. Johnson now has eight multi-hit showings. He is 11-19 with six RBIs in his last four games raising his season average to .362.
The Bison will now return home to open up Patriot League play against Navy this weekend in the first four games at the newly refurbished Depew Field.