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February 11, 2016

Minutemen open up A-10 play against George Washington

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

With the arrival of the season’s first set of conference games, the Massachusetts baseball team will look to take a strong first step in the Atlantic 10 standings on the road against George Washington this weekend.

The Minutemen (4-8) are rolling into Alexandria, Va., hot on the heels of a three-game win streak that has seen both their offense and pitching come up big following a slow start at the beginning of the season.

As they prepare to take on the Colonials (6-15), who are currently suffering a six-game losing streak, UMass coach Mike Stone is confident his team will play to win against its first conference foe of the year.

“We should be very excited to play this weekend,” said Stone. “We are going in with a good win streak and we are really starting to come together on the field, so we should be ready to go against GW.”

The Colonials, who will also be starting A-10 play this weekend, have been streaking for the majority of their season. Prior to its current string of loses, GW enjoyed a brief four-game win streak after dropping seven-straight contests. In their past six losses, pitching has proved a major area of concern. The Colonials relinquished eight or more runs in every game, including 17-9 and 19-1 losses to Marist.

When asked whether or not GW’s recent lack of victories will influence the team’s mindset going into the first game on Friday afternoon, said Stone, “We are not concerned with what they have or have not done so far this season. We need to focus on what we can do and make sure we do it.”

When looking at what they can do on the field, the Minutemen have proven more than capable of bringing their best on a consistent basis as of late. Their offense, which had been struggling to get more than a handful of runs a game at the season’s start, has now seen considerable success at the plate, while their pitching has begun to solidify itself with starters that can go late into games and relievers that can successfully contain any opposing late-inning offense.

“I was expecting [this kind of success] to happen,” said Stone. “Our offense is starting to adjust to the bat change, we are getting more at-bats, and more experience at the plate. [On the mound], our guys got their feet wet a little bit and have pitched well, which will give them confidence going into games. I feel better about our pitching than I did three weeks ago.

“The thing is, our spring training starts during our regular season. In the pros, they play 25 games before their season starts and that allows guys to get more comfortable in their roles, while we started reaching that comfort eight or nine games into the season,” added Stone.

A couple of reasons as to why the Maroon and White are getting as comfortable as they are can be attributed to the efforts of a few key upperclassmen.

Senior shortstop/third baseman Matt Gedman and junior right hander Glen Misho have been leading the way for the Minutemen in their respective fields. At the plate, Gedman commands a robust .422 batting average and six runs on 19 hits in 10 games, all of which he started. On the mound, Misho leads the hurlers with a 2-1 record, a 3.86 earned run average, 15 strikeouts and a complete game in three starts. 

Both players have also earned impressive hardware already this season. Gedman was awarded the UMass Athlete of the Week award this past Monday for his successes at the plate, while Misho earned the Co-Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Week award on Monday, March 14. In addition, their leadership in doing their jobs has not gone overlooked by Stone.

“When you go out and execute, that’s the kind of action leadership that you want to contribute to a team,” said Stone. “What you do means more than what you say. Glen’s improved to give real quality innings, and Matt can give strong hits, and when you do that consistently, wins can come. Good things are contagious, and their successes have already started to improve the performances of the guys around them.”

 As the Minutemen head into the weekend series, Stone has just one main thing to ask of his team.

“I want us to play like hell,” said Stone. “If we compete, we will have a good weekend.”

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

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