FARMINGTON — Seventeen runs allowed — total — over the last seven games. A starting pitcher finishing the game with eight shutout innings.
These are not the kinds of numbers anyone is used to seeing from the University of Maine at Farmington baseball team. The last time the Beavers finished a season allowing less than seven runs per game was in 2008, when they allowed 6.3.
But this year, the Beavers have enough quality pitching to have a chance to win every time out. And behind quality starts from freshman Kyle Peterson and senior Casey Ashey, UMF swept Lyndon State on Thursday, winning the opener, 3-2, in nine innings, and taking Game 2, 7-3.
Combined with Castleton’s sweep of Colby-Sawyer on Thursday, the Beavers are now 2.5 games back of the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Atlantic Conference. UMF has eight NAC games remaining and Colby-Sawyer has nine, and the teams have a doubleheader in New London, N.H. on April 25.
The issue for UMF (6-14 overall, 5-11 NAC) has been offense. But the Beavers did just enough in the first game and peppered Lyndon with clutch hits in the nightcap.
Neither game got off to a great start for the Beavers. In Game 1, a two-out error in the top of the first led to two unearned runs for Lyndon (2-20, 2-10). For a while, it looked like that would be all Hornets pitcher Sam Matthews would need. Matthews beautifully set up UMF for his late-breaking curve, leaving the Beavers fishing at balls in the dirt. Matthews retired 17 of 20 batters at one point.
Fortunately for the Beavers, they bunched their hits in the third inning. Brian Jenkins and Dale Winchenbach led off with singles, and Brett Wallingford dropped a perfect bunt down the third-base line to load the bases. Jenkins came home on a wild pitch and Winchenbach scored on a groundout to tie the game at 2.
Peterson was in some kind of trouble in nearly every inning, but got out of it by throwing strikes. He went all nine for his first collegiate win, giving up nine hits, walking none, and throwing only 101 pitches.
“It was good calling by Coach (Brandon) Gallagher, and just really good defense,” Peterson said. “I don’t think we made another error after (the first inning). Just everything came together, really.”
UMF coach Chris Bessey would have taken Peterson out for the 10th inning, but the Beavers scored in the bottom of the ninth. Dustin McCrossin lined a singled up the middle and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Tom Grady. Ben Keene then lifted a fly ball that fell between two Lyndon outfielders, and McCrossin raced home with the winning run.
In Game 2, Lyndon again took the lead in the top of the first and didn’t score the rest of the way. The Hornets scored three off Ashey, only to have UMF erase that by the fourth inning. Jory Humphrey singled home Zach Keene with two out in the second, and Grady and Humphrey had back-to-back two-out RBI singles in the fourth.
“That’s something we’ve been missing,” Bessey said. “We’ve been cutting our strikeouts down, which means we put the bat on the ball. It’s just that we’ve been getting baserunners with one or two outs, then not getting the clutch hit to knock them in. Today, fortunately for us, we got the clutch hits.”
UMF went up for good in the fifth when Jenkins singled, stole second, and raced home on Wallingford’s single. The Beavers then put it away with three runs in the bottom of the sixth. Over his last five innings, UMF allowed one hit and struck out four before Ethan Jean finished up in the seventh.
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243