LOWELL -- There are only so many heartbreaking ways a baseball team can lose by one run. And UMass Lowell has exhausted the possibilities.
"The baseball gods had to come with us sooner or later," said UMass Lowell junior first baseman Jimmy Ricoy of Lowell.
Yes, the gods are on board for the time being. They righteously reward pitchers who throw strikes, which UMass Lowell's Christian Lavoie did with 83 of his 121 pitches on Saturday, sending the River Hawks home happy in 2 hours, 18 minutes.
With Lavoie in command, UMass Lowell followed up its extra-inning walk-off victory in the second game of Friday's doubleheader by defeating Stony Brook, 3-1, at LeLacheur Park for the 12-15 River Hawks' first consecutive victories in more than a month.
Lavoie (1-2, 2.93) pitched the first nine-inning complete of UMass Lowell's inaugural Division 1 season, and the first of his collegiate career. The animated junior righty from Hopkinton commanded his low-80s fastball (throwing very few breaking pitches) and frustrated Stony Brook by recording 16 flyball outs into a pitcher's wind blowing off the Merrimack.
Lavoie allowed only an unearned run on three hits, walked two and struck out three.
"I'm not really an overpowering guy," said the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Lavoie. "I'd like to be. But those days (in Little League) are gone. So I just focus on keeping the ball down, working in and out."
And it works. The River Hawks are 4-4 in Lavoie's eight starts. Three of the four losses have been by one run. He has been racked just once. That was March 21 at William & Mary (5 ip, 14h, 9r, 7er), which entering last week had the highest-scoring offense in Division 1. Lavoie and senior right-hander Mike Calzetta of Lawrence (2-1, 2.75) have been UMass Lowell's most consistent starting pitchers.
"He's awesome," said UMass Lowell coach Ken Harring about Lavoie. "He's a worker. He loves the game. When we had that game canceled against Binghamton (on March 16) that he was supposed to pitch, there was not a more upset guy on the team. He just wants to compete. He doesn't care if it's 20-below zero."
As frequently documented in agonizing detail, 10 of UMass Lowell's 15 losses have been by one run. They had lost four straight games by one run -- two in extra-innings -- before losing 9-3 to Stony Brook in the first game of Friday's doubleheader. But the resilient River Hawks wound up taking two of three from Stony Brook (22-13, 8-3), knocking the 2012 College World Series participants out of first place in the America East. UMass Lowell (12-15, 5-6) has won back-to-back games for the first time since sweeping a doubleheader from Binghamton on March 15 for a four-game winning streak and 8-2 start.
Rather than wait around for frustration to occur, UMass Lowell this weekend became more proactive in the small-ball department. In the second inning on Saturday, Ricoy singled to right on a perfectly executed hit-and-run. Matthew Sanchez (hit by pitch) took third on the play and then scored on a 4-6-3 double play to make it 1-0.
After Stony Brook tied the game in the fourth, UMass Lowell in the fifth went ahead for good on a bunt single by Joe Consolmagno, sacrifice bunt by Jacob O'Keefe and RBI single by Kelly Rooney. The River Hawks added an insurance run in the seventh on a first-and-third delayed double-steal, with Rooney stealing second and Consolmagno scoring from third. UMass Lowell had five hits in the game, all singles, three of them infield hits.
"Christian really held his own on the mound today," said Rooney. "He hit his spots. We couldn't ask for a better day out of him. And defensively, the outfielders made some great plays."
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