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Minutemen season already underway

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

New seasons often provide fresh starts. For the Massachusetts baseball team, this year comes with a promising pitching rotation and a youthful starting roster.

 

With their season already underway, the Minutemen (4-8) are looking to develop themselves into a team that is not only sound in the game’s defensive fundamentals, but also a team that can swing the bat consistently.

“Offensively is where we need to get going,” said UMass head coach Mike Stone. “Defensively we have done pretty well and the mound has been okay, but we need to adjust better offensively. It is early in the year, but we have not shown much yet at the plate, and that is an area that we have to be better with.”

In their first seven games of the year, the Minutemen were held to just three or less runs six times. The lone time they scored over three runs in nine innings was in a game that saw the Minutemen lose to Michigan by a score of 11-6 on Saturday, March 5. However, they have shown significant signs of improvement in the batter’s box as of late.

In their latest five-game stretch, the Maroon and White have scored at least six or more runs in each of their games and have scored 10 or more during three games. UMass went 3-2 over that span, compared to going 1-7 in eight games prior to their offensive awakening.

The upperclassmen have established themselves as the offensive leaders that the team needs. Senior Matt Gedman has been on fire thus far, bringing to the table a team-leading .422 batting average with 19 hits and eight RBIs in 10 games played. Senior Peter Copa has also had a remarkable start to the season, batting .300 with a team-best .650 slugging percentage, .491 on base percentage, 11 RBIs and four homers in 12 games played.

While power continues to develop at the plate, high hopes are being built just over 60 feet away on the mound.

Strong and effective pitching is critical in a team’s ability to establish itself amongst the competition. When looking at the starting rotation and the subsequent bullpen, Stone sees a lot of talent to work with this season.

“We have a lot of veterans that are throwing the ball and are showing the way as far as competing,” said Stone. “We have had some good starts and a few really good starts so far, and that will probably get better as the season progresses.”

UMass has seen several good pitching performances already on this year. The Minutemen staff has let up five runs or fewer six times this season and holds a 4-2 record when doing so. Junior right-hander Glen Misho has been a large part of the success with his performance on the rubber.

Misho is 2-1 with a 3.86 earned run average in three games started this season. He leads the squad in strikeouts with 15 – six of which were looking, also a team best – and in innings pitched with 21. Misho was also named the Co-Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Week on Monday, March 14, for his complete-game performance against Toledo on March 12, in which he only allowed one run on eight hits with eight strikeouts.

As the team returns from its trip to the RussMatt Invitational in Winter Haven, Fla., Stone knows that the team has a lot of work to do in building for a successful season with such a young squad.

“It is a process. We are building and hopefully we will see some positive soon,” said Stone. “We have a good mix of guys who have played the game at this level before and freshmen, and right now we are adjusting.”

“We are doing a good job with the adjustment process, and we keep improving every day. We just need to play and get better,” continued Stone.

Of the 31 players on the roster, 13 players are freshmen, with the majority of them playing positions in the field. The large amount of youth will not only prove to be key in replacing injured starters, should the need arise, but also will add depth and skill for games to come.

David Martin can be reached at dmmartin@student.umass.edu.

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