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UMass baseball pulls away to snap 10-game losing streak

  • Rob McLam of UMass steals third base after Mike Rampone of NJIT misses the ball, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Rob McLam of UMass steals third base after Mike Rampone of NJIT misses the ball, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst.

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  • Aaron Plunkett of UMass pitches during a game against NJIT, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Aaron Plunkett of UMass pitches during a game against NJIT, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst.

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  • Nik Campero of UMass looks to catch a foul, Friday, in a game against NJIT at Earl Lorden Field.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Nik Campero of UMass looks to catch a foul, Friday, in a game against NJIT at Earl Lorden Field.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Adam Picard of UMass hits a double against NJIT, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Adam Picard of UMass hits a double against NJIT, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field.

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  • Rob McLam of UMass slides behind Zack Renna of NJIT and into home plate, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Rob McLam of UMass slides behind Zack Renna of NJIT and into home plate, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Rich Graef of UMass runs to first base after hitting the ball against NJIT, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Rich Graef of UMass runs to first base after hitting the ball against NJIT, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst.

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  • Nik Campero of UMass, right, tags Mike Rampone of NJIT at first base, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Nik Campero of UMass, right, tags Mike Rampone of NJIT at first base, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Rob McLam of UMass steals third base after Mike Rampone of NJIT misses the ball, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Rob McLam of UMass steals third base after Mike Rampone of NJIT misses the ball, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Aaron Plunkett of UMass pitches during a game against NJIT, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Aaron Plunkett of UMass pitches during a game against NJIT, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Rob McLam of UMass steals third base after Mike Rampone of NJIT misses the ball, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Aaron Plunkett of UMass pitches during a game against NJIT, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Nik Campero of UMass looks to catch a foul, Friday, in a game against NJIT at Earl Lorden Field.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Adam Picard of UMass hits a double against NJIT, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Rob McLam of UMass slides behind Zack Renna of NJIT and into home plate, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Rich Graef of UMass runs to first base after hitting the ball against NJIT, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Nik Campero of UMass, right, tags Mike Rampone of NJIT at first base, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Rob McLam of UMass steals third base after Mike Rampone of NJIT misses the ball, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Aaron Plunkett of UMass pitches during a game against NJIT, Friday, at Earl Lorden Field in Amherst.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

AMHERST — On a day when both teams’ pitchers regularly got into trouble, the University of Massachusetts did a better job than New Jersey Institute of Technology of wriggling out of it.

The Minutemen scored five runs in the fifth and eighth inning, and the second onslaught helped them pull away for a 10-4 home-opening win at Earl Lorden Field.

UMass (2-12) and NJIT (6-13) will play a doubleheader Saturday at noon.

The win snapped a 10-game losing streak.

“It was real nice to get one,” junior second baseman Ryan Cusick said. “I think we needed it for our confidence. It was a slow start to the season. It happens to us a lot. But it’s good to get back on the Earl field. I think we hit the ball well, a couple of errors we need to clean up, but all in all I thought we looked pretty good.”

Despite the win, UMass coach Mike Stone wasn’t happy with the execution.

“It wasn’t a very good game,” Stone said. “I think we can do so much better than that. We made it a lot more difficult than it really should have been.”

The game was still close in the top of the eighth with the Minutemen up 5-3. UMass reliever Aaron Plunkett allowed a walk and a hit to start the frame, then caught his foot in the mud in front of the mound causing a balk that left runners on second and third. He got No. 9 hitter Andrew Benjamin to bounce out to second scoring one run and leaving the tying run on third with one out.

But Plunkett stranded the runner with the help of some solid defense. Ed Charlton hit a hard bouncer to freshman shortstop Vinny Scifo, who looked back the runner before making the play at first.

Third baseman Paul Yanakopulos then made a long run into foul territory to track down Nick Swim’s popup to end the inning with UMass ahead 5-4.

“That was huge,” Cusick said. “That was a big boost for our pitchers too.”

Highlander reliever Joe Fasano got no help from his defense as the Minutemen turned three errors into five unearned runs in the eighth.

Plunkett capped a 1-2-3 ninth by striking out Mike Rampone to seal the win.

UMass starter DJ Jauss struggled with his control. He walked five, hit five batters and threw a wild pitch in 62∕3 innings. The junior transfer from East Carolina limited the damage with the help of a career-high seven strikeouts.

Jauss allowed a run without giving up a hit in the first inning. He sandwiched a walk between two hit batsmen, then traded the run for a double play when Rampone bounced to short.

The Highlanders doubled their edge with an unearned run in the fifth. It looked like a 2-0 lead might be enough for starter Tripp Davis, who breezed through the first four innings, taking advantage of UMass’ overeagerness to swing early in the count.

But the Minutemen began working counts more in the fifth and were rewarded for it. Kellen Pagel drew a leadoff walk and stole the first of seven UMass steals in the game. The bottom three UMass hitters, who were a combined 6 for 12, ignited the rally from there.

Pagel had to wait at second to see if the right fielder would track down Yanakopulos’ double and only reached third. Freshman catcher John Jennings followed with a single to right that scored Pagel.

After Scifo grounded out, Cusick ripped a two-run triple over a shallow outfield to put UMass ahead 3-2. He scored two batters later on Rob McLam’s RBI single. McLam stole second and stretched the lead to 5-2 on Adam Picard’s RBI single.

“We manufactured runs. We have to do that,” Stone said. “Hopefully we’ll continue to do that.”

Jauss pitched a scoreless sixth and gave up a run in the seventh before turning the ball over to Plunkett, who earned his first career save.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at @GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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