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Offense struggling in early season

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Through the first nine games of the season, the Massachusetts baseball team had one win, a 2-1 defensive battle against Toledo highlighted by a strong pitching performance from junior Glen Misho. Misho’s skill led him to be named Co-Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Week.

 

What it did not lead to, however, were a ton of runs crossing the plate. In six of their games this season, the Minutemen have failed to score more than three runs. In all but five games to date this season, the Minutemen managed six hits or less.

UMass coach Mike Stone said that at this point in the season the lack of scoring might just have to do with shaking some of the rust off and getting outside to play.

While several of the team’s 14 freshmen have been getting opportunities to show their worth, Stone said that the middle of the order has remained largely the same, consisting of team veterans like seniors Eric Fredette, Peter Copa, Kyle Multner and Matt Gedman. Copa leads the team with four home runs.

While Stone admits that it takes some time for the freshmen to get used to the college game, he believes it is also true that this year’s bunch has responded well so far. Stone said they are a talented group of athletes who have shown good attitudes from the beginning.

One of the freshmen that Stone speaks highly of is Josh Messier. Messier, a New Bedford native, has played at shortstop in all eight games thus far, and he managed five hits in his first 31 at bats.

Stone said he believed in “giving [the] younger kids a chance to play,” and that it will just take time for them to adjust to the Division I game.

“[That’s] part of the deal right now,” said Stone.

Stone also noted that at this point in the season, three or four different spots in the lineup give the Minutemen flexibility, something that has changed annually.

While this year’s statistics show hitting has not been the team’s strength thus far, the March 15 contest with Army helped the UMass offense gain some steam and lead them in the right direction. More than doubling their hit total from any other game, the Minutemen had 14 hits in a 10-9 loss to the Black Knights.

Producing big for the Minutemen was the middle of the order. Gedman, Copa and junior catcher Tom Conley led the Minutemen with three hits a piece, combining to knock in six runs. Freshmen Adam Picard collected two hits and Messier had one.

The Minutemen, however, left many opportunities on base, stranding a total of 13 runners, seven of them coming while Copa was up to bat.

UMass continued to increase in its offensive creativity, as it earned scored 36 runs since the Army game, including a 26-13 advantage over Bucknell, Northwestern and UMBC for three-straight wins.

All of the early season travel does not bother Stone as he contemplates the offense. He said playing baseball up north is simply part of the territory and no one’s complaining.

“[We’re] glad to be here,” said Stone.

Eric Mansfield can be reached at eamansfi@student.umass.edu.

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