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Minutemen look to continue momentum against Eagles

The Massachusetts baseball team hopes it can further erase its poor start to the 2010 season.

After beginning the year 2-16, UMass (4-17, 3-6 Atlantic 10) won a crucial series, 2-1, against conference rival Richmond last weekend at Earl Lorden Field. It was a step in the right direction for the Minutemen, who are slated to play Boston College at 3 p.m. today in Chestnut Hill.

“It gives us a lot of confidence,” UMass coach Mike Stone said. “We won our first conference series and we played really well in our second game – it gives us a lot of confidence going forward.”

Even with loads of confidence, beating the Eagles (15-16, 6-9 Atlantic Coast Conference) should be no easy task. With wins in three of their previous four contests, the Eagles have newfound confidence of their own. Luckily for UMass, it will most likely not have to face BC pitcher Mike Dennhardt, who threw a complete game shutout against Maryland on Saturday. The performance earned him ACC Pitcher of the Week honors.

Starting for UMass will be senior right-hander Bryan Leigh. Leigh owns an 11.74 ERA and an 0-4 record to this point, but was very effective in his only start of the season when he threw seven innings, giving up five runs (three earned) while striking out nine.

“We expect that he’ll pitch well and give us some solid innings,” Stone said.

One player Leigh will have to watch out for is junior infielder Mickey Wiswall, whose .271 average is greatly overshadowed by his power numbers. Wiswall has started all 31 games for the Eagles this season and he leads the team in home runs with nine, and runs batted in with 35.

“Wiswall’s good,” Stone said. “[BC] is a good team playing in the ACC so they have to have good players. A lot of their players are friends with our players so it should be a good match-up.”

UMass will also have to watch out for senior outfielder Robbie Anston, who is widely recognized as one of the best lead-off hitters in the conference. Coming off a year where he set the BC single-season hits record with 85, Anston continues to perform both at the plate and on the base paths, where he displays invaluable speed. In 31 games, Anston leads the team in hits (41), runs (30), and stolen bases (9).

Although the game will undoubtedly be difficult, Stone likes what he sees from his team as of late.

“I think we’ve had a better, more positive attitude lately,” Stone said. “When you’re successful then you feel better about yourselves and then you get on a roll. It is [having] confidence, playing well, and being successful that makes all the difference in the world.”

Although it is not a conference game, UMass cannot afford to sit back. After another non-conference game against Northeastern tomorrow, UMass will travel to Rhode Island where it opens a three-game set against a strong Rams team on Friday.

Steve Levine can be reached at slevine@student.umass.edu.

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