UMass-Lowell River Hawks vs. Boston College Eagles
First Pitch: 3 PM
It's hard to imagine how the New England collegiate baseball landscape could become jammed solid. Despite having a plethora of Division I teams, there's always been something of a power structure centered around the city of Boston. That's where BC, Northeastern, and Harvard have built their traditions, and even though UMass joins them as one of the four Beanpot schools, the baseball tradition in New England has always had something of a Boston, Massachusetts feel to it.
But when UMass-Lowell and Bryant reclassified out of Division II's Northeast-10 Conference, they joined respective leagues in Division I with a purpose of being more than a token member of a conference. Bryant, in a very quiet, unassuming way, is becoming a regional power, having won their conference in back-to-back years within four years of joining the Northeast Conference.
For the River Hawks, that's much of the same. They joined Division I as a full member in 2014 and promptly won 20 games. And even though they took a step back last year, there's a basic understanding that with their conference affiliation in America East, they could vault, like Bryant, into the national picture when their D1 recruiting cycle starts kicking into high gear in earnest in the next couple of seasons.
That's because the River Hawks have one major advantage that other schools, including Boston College don't have. The university owns and operates LeLacheur Park much in the same way they do Tsongas Arena. LeLacheur Park is a gorgeous facility that seats roughly 5,000 people on the banks of the Merrimack River. It's the home to the Lowell Spinners, the Single-A franchise affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, and it's one of those places that can simply draw on its own.
What makes Lowell an enticing option is what puts a stress on facilities. Because it's a minor league facility, it doesn't feel as cavernous as playing college games at Fenway Park permanently would feel. But it's also a low level minor league facility, the type of place that still feels small and communal despite it being a professional stadium.
LeLacheur Park is an ace in the hole for the River Hawks, a team that plays in a mid-major conference. As they move along in their Division I tenure, that's something that should make Eagles fans perk up, especially with the recent facilities announcement. You want to keep pace and do this thing right? Look at what this school has and realize that if this gets fouled up, there's a chance they could have superior facilities to an ACC school.
Record: 17-19 (5-10 America East)
Last Time Out: The River Hawks managed to win the second game of a double header against the Albany Great Danes, winning 6-1 after losing the front end by a 5-2 margin. But Albany came back and won the series with a 4-2 victory on Sunday. Prior to that, UML hung tough with UConn, losing only 4-2, and defeated Brown in a one-run, 9-8 ballgame.
Around The Horn
Joe Consolmagno has made himself right at home in the UML lineup, leading the team with a .299 average and 22 runs scored. Last weekend, he had six RBI on his own, scoring four runs while amassing eight base hits.
Behind him, Steve Passatempo (who wears #0 as an interesting sidenote) leads the team with 34 RBI. His eight homers are more than half of the team's 13 total dingers. But he's only hitting .254, underscoring a tough batting average for the River Hawks.
As a team, UML only hits .231, something that should be interesting to watch in a midweek game against Boston College's now-vaunted pitching staff. BC is going to hold Thomas Lane in reserve most likely until Bryant on Wednesday, instead starting Carmen Giampetruzzi on Tuesday.
That presents a golden opportunity for some of the depth pitchers to establish themselves and get some work in. At the same time, UMass-Lowell's shown a propensity for getting in a team's ear and staying there like a bee, and the .231 team batting average is tempered by the fact that they've really struggled in league play, where they're only hitting .220.
On The Bump
As BC's proven this year, there's something to be said for having solid pitching, and the River Hawks enter with a better than average staff. Wins and losses aside, this is a team that has a front-loaded pitching staff with plenty of talent.
The UML pitching staff features a number of players with low ERAs, and their 3.40 team ERA is equal to what they do against opponents. Seven of their usual arms have ERAs below 4.00, and a number of relievers have put together fine outings.
Kevin Veilleux gets the start against BC, still searching for his first win of the year. But in seven appearances and three starts, he carries a 3.72 ERA in 19.1 innings. He got beaten up by NYIT in a shortened appearance that drove, at the time, his ERA from 1.80 to 5.14. IN the time since, hes dropped the mark down to 3.72. In his last outing, he threw 4.2 innings against UConn, giving up three runs, of which only one was earned, on four hits.
If you look up and down the pitching stats, there's a number of guys who can come in and throw one or two solid innings. While that doesn't mean any one guy is going to overpower your team for nine innings, there has to be an understanding that if each guy does their job, they'll be able to put something together.
This game is going to have to fight soaker-like conditions. There's a 100% chance of rain with temperatures only reaching into the 40s over the course of the day. By the time first pitch rolls around, it's going to be in the low 40s, continuing to dip down into the 30s as the night progresses
In other words, it's going to be pretty bad out. Bring a blanket and possibly an umbrella, and potentially be ready for a shortened game.
Where in the World is Boston College Baseball?
Home sweet home for this one as the Eagles continue a string of eight in a row at home.
Music To Listen To As You're Nervously Hoping The Weather Holds Off
Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, Dhani Harrison, and Prince - While My Guitar Gently Weeps
It seems pretty ironic to me that my favorite Beatles song is one that is neither sung by John Lennon nor featuring George Harrison on the guitar. Instead, it's this one, which is sung by Harrison with Eric Clapton playing guitar.
In 2004, at A Tribute to George Harrison, a group of rock legends joined with George's son Dhani to play this one. The song itself is fantastic, and it's a great jam session among some of the best in the business, namely Tom Petty, who always gets lost among my list of greatest rockers despite the fact that he's great.
The whole thing comes to a crescendo though with the guitar solo played by Prince. For a guy who made his career in the 1980s with pop-pleasing songs, it's amazing to think about just how talented he really was on deeper tracks. Prince wasn't afraid to push the envelope and explore different areas, and he did it with several different bands, from the Revolution to the New Power Generation. Ultimately, though, it all came back to him and what was his genius.
This guitar solo is something I used to watch at least once a month on something like a lunch break, and now that he's gone, I really do revel in how lucky we were to watch him and enjoy his gift and his craft.
It has nothing to do with baseball, but between losing Lemmy, Phife, David Bowie, and now Prince, music is slowly eroding some of the genius that existed through my lifetime. I don't think I'm very old, but at the same time, it's something like this that makes me feel very old at the same time.
Random Fact(s) of the Week
The name "River Hawks" came about during the school's transition from the University of Lowell into the University of Massachusetts system. In 1991, U-Lowell joined the University of Massachusetts system as UMass-Lowell, and the former team name, the Chiefs, was dropped in favor of the River Hawks.
UMass-Lowell is actually the finished product of two former schools in Lowell at Lowell State College and Lowell Tech. They merged into U-Lowell in 1972.
Despite being arguably best known for its hockey program, a Major League Baseball player who has his name etched in baseball lore has roots in the school. Mike LaValliere played from 1984 through 1995 in the big leagues, having spent the majority of those seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he won a 1987 Gold Glove.
LaValliere was the catcher in 1992 in the National League Championship Series in the final play of Game Seven. Trailing by one run in the bottom of the ninth, Francisco Cabrera singled to left to score David Justice. As Sid Bream rounded third, Barry Bonds came up firing, but the throw was to the right of the plate. Had it been on line, Bream would've been a dead duck, but since it was inside, LaValliere had to field and dive with a swipe at the plate. Bream was safe, and the Braves won the National League pennant.
I always come back to the same statement any time there's a midweek game. Take it too lightly, and you'll be caught in a bad spot figuring out why you lost a game. Focus on the task at hand, and let the arms take it from there. When you beat a top five team, there's no reason to not expect a win against an America East team, but at the same time, anyone can win on any given day.