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Baseball: Homers a Highlight in Loss

Three of Warriors' five hits are HRs as they drop regular-season finale

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Tournament Central

MANSFIELD, Conn. - Amherst College senior righty Max McKenna stopped the Eastern Connecticut State University baseball team on five hits through seven innings and freshman first baseman Taiki Kasuga drove in four runs with a triple and single to carry the Lord Jeffs to an 11-4 victory Saturday afternoon at the Eastern Baseball Stadium.

Above Joe Balowski hits the first of his two home runs Saturday. (Stephen Goomrigian photo)

The loss in the regular-season finale for  Eastern (29-9) is its fifth in its final nine games and evens its record against teams who are in this week's NCAA New England rankings to 3-3. Amherst (23-7), which had lost seven and tied one against Eastern in the last eight meetings between the programs, has won 17 of its last 20 since a 6-4 start.

Eastern opens play as the No. 1 seed and host  in the Little East Conference Tournament against sixth-seeded Rhode Island College Wednesday at noon. Amherst visits the University of Southern Maine of the Little East Sunday for a noon single game and faces Bates College later that day in Portland, Maine before hosting Bowdoin College in its New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Tournament opener Friday at 3 p.m.

With the exception of junior righty starting righty Mitch Furber (Oakdale), none of Eastern's seven other pitchers Saturday threw more than one inning. In his third start of the season, Furber (1-2) couldn't protect an early 2-0 lead, giving up three runs in the third after there were two out and none on. Furber was lifted  while Amherst was collecting four hits in the inning - the big blow delivered by Kasuga with his two-run triple.

The Lord Jeffs moved out to a 6-2 lead with three more runs in the fourth - Kasuga driving in two with a single - and tacked on two more in the fifth and another in the sixth to make it 9-3.
Six Amherst hitters picked up two or more hits, with junior catcher Mike Samela  driving in two runs with singles in the third and eighth.

Eastern hit three home runs but they were all sole homers and constituted 60 percent of the team's offense.

McKenna (5-1), who now shares the Amherst staff lead in wins, fanned six and walked only one. After giving  up single runs in the first and second on senior leftfielder Robert Perry's (Manchester) fifth home run of the year and sophomore third baseman Joe Balowski's (Berlin) solo shot leading off the second, McKenna settled down to limit Eastern to three hits over the final five innings of his stint.

Balowski hit his second home run of the game with two out and none on in the fourth - his second and third of the season . Perry's home run extended his current hitting streak to 22