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Kukowski, Bulldogs Outlast UMass-Lowell, 8-7

Green Campbell. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Green Campbell. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Yale Picks Up Second Win In Three Days

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – A two-run tenth inning, coupled with a dominant three-inning relief outing for freshman pitcher Mason Kukowski, helped the Yale baseball team outlast UMass-Lowell, 8-7, on another cold day at Fiondella Field.

A fielder's choice by Harrison White (Laguna Niguel, Calif.) and a single by Richard Slenker (Pound Ridge, N.Y.) punched across the game-winning runs for the Elis (6-4) in the tenth, while Kukowski (2-0) earned his second win of the season.

In a four-hour game with 11 pitching changes between the two teams, the Bulldogs were able to grind-out their second straight win in thrilling fashion.

Slenker led Yale at the plate, going 3-for-5 with an RBI and a walk, while senior Eric Hsieh (Laguna Niguel, Calif.) stayed hot at the dish, going 2-for-3 with three walks. Hsieh entered the game with the highest batting average in Division I baseball, which improved from .529 to .541 on Thursday.

"This was a hard-earned win," said Bulldog head coach, John Stuper. "It was tough conditions and a tough opponent. I can't say we played great, but I can say it was a hard-earned win."

The Bulldogs would use eight pitchers in the game, preparing for the upcoming three-game weekend set with Holy Cross. Junior righty Chris Moates (Smithville, Ga.) had the start for Yale, but it was Kukowski (Katy, Texas) who became the hero.

"Mason has just been outstanding. He is fearless," said Stuper of his freshman hurler. "His teammates have a lot of confidence when I hand him the ball."

Kukowski took the hill in the eighth inning when the game was tied, prompting Stuper to keep him on the mound the rest of the way. The three-inning outing is the longest of the season for the first-year righty.

"I feel good right now, but we'll see tomorrow," joked Kukowski. The freshman allowed one earned run on four hits while striking out two, but it was his clutch performance in the bottom of the tenth that sealed the game for the Bulldogs.

With a two-run lead in the final inning, the River Hawks loaded the bases after two hits and a walk. Kukowski would then force a fielder's choice in the infield, allowing UMass-Lowell to score a run and cut the lead to 8-7.

Now facing a first-and-third situation with one out, Kukowski would strike out three-hitter Danny Mendick with a pitch on the outside corner. It was followed by a harmless groundball to Slenker at third, clinching the win for Yale and proving the resilience of the first-year pitcher.

"The first couple of at-bats were kind of tough. One guy got a hit off a good pitch and I walked another," said Kukowski. "But after that, I was just trying to throw strikes and hit my spots, especially with the slider."

In the top half of the tenth, the Bulldogs got runners on base for the middle of the order. White hit a soft line drive to short, which the umpire ruled as a trap by the shortstop, rather than a ball caught in the air. Sophomore Andrew Herrera (Allendale, N.J.) would score from third on the confusion, giving Yale a 7-6 lead.

With White on first base, Slenker hit a line drive to left, which UL's Joe Consolmagno misplayed, allowing White to run all the way home. The two runs gave Kukowski enough support for the bottom half.

Even getting to extras came tough, as a River Hawks' batter was called for batter's interference in the bottom of the ninth, on a play that would have scored the game-winning run for UL.

The Bulldogs' best offensive inning was a three-run fourth, which included RBI singles by freshman Tom Ruddy (Sparta, N.J.) and White.

The Elis also had tacked on two in the second inning when Hsieh scored on a passed ball and junior Nate Adams (St. Louis, Mo.) laid down a sacrifice bunt that scored sophomore Derek Brown (Houston, Texas).

Thursday's game had 20 walks combined, while each team also left 12 runners on base, resulting in the 10-inning marathon. It was also Yale's second straight errorless game in the field.

Yale returns to action on Saturday when they play Holy Cross at 6:00 p.m. at the New England Baseball Complex in Northborough, Mass. The Bulldogs will play in Northborough on Sunday as well, playing a doubleheader with the Crusaders, starting at 1 p.m.

 

Filed by Steve Lewis, Yale Sports Publicity