UMass baseball: Granby’s Mike Toth steps into action, helps Minutemen beat Albany in home opener (PHOTOS)

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 03-28-2023 8:06 PM

AMHERST – Mike Toth didn’t expect his homecoming game to turn into a coming out party.

The Granby native figured he’d support his teammates from the Earl Lorden field dugout and maybe see some friends and family after the UMass baseball team’s home opener Tuesday against Albany.

Then UMass starting catcher Mike Gervasi left in the top of the second inning with an injury. Toth had appeared in 10 of the Minutemen’s previous 15 games but only saw the plate nine times with one hit.

“That was a split second decision, I had to step in,” Toth said. 

The freshman laced two hits and collected his first collegiate RBI in an 8-2 victory that snapped a seven-game losing streak.

“Feel at home,” said Toth, who played at Granby and Williston locally. “I struggled the first two at bats but just had to get more comfortable, relax a little more, realize it’s just a game.”

UMass (4-12) hadn’t won since March 17 at Penn, but the Minutemen jumped ahead with four runs in the bottom of the first inning. They loaded the bases, and Steve Luttazi dropped in a two-run single.

Nolan Tichy singled in another run, and Kyle Hoog brought the fourth around with a fielder’s choice.

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“Any time we can put a crooked number up in the first, that’s going to be helpful,” UMass coach Matt Reyonlds said. “I’m glad we didn’t sit back on that and ride that out.”

Justin Blumenthal scored on a wild pitch in the fourth after a single, then Will MacLean launched his first homer of the season to make it 6-0.

UMass used six pitchers in the game, and they were only threatened in the top of the fifth when Albany loaded the bases with no outs. Cole Koeppel, who earned the win, allowed just two runs and struck out all three outs. He punched out five batters in just two innings of work.

The Minutemen allowed just one hit after the fifth inning and had 10 strikeouts as a staff.

“The biggest thing going into it was we knew we could get ahead early. They don’t have a ton of first-pitch swingers,” Reynolds said. “(Pitching coach Brandon) Shileikis did a good job of recognizing that. I thought our pitchers, in turn, came out and did a great job of throwing strike one. We worked ahead for the most part.”

Tichy (4-for-4, 2 RBIs) drove in Luttazi in the bottom of the fifth after a double.

“Keeping it simple, trying to find my pitch,” Tichy said. “I saw my pitch and was hitting it hard all day.”

Then Toth added his second single in his final two at bats in the eighth inning to bring in Zack Zaetta for his first RBI as a Minuteman.

“He did a great job, we’ve been working with him a lot trying to stay over the baseball and work the middle of the field,” Reynolds said. “He did an awesome job, laced two balls to the middle of the field.”

UMass will open conference play Friday at Saint Louis (7 p.m.) with a three-game series.

“Good to get a win, we were starving for one of those,” Reynolds said.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>