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May 4, 2017

UMass baseball announces awards from 2016 season

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts baseball team announced its 2016 recipients of its annual baseball awards last Wednesday as John Jennings, Dylan Morris and Mike Hart received the three awards at the team’s annual golf outing earlier this month.

Jennings was honored as the team’s most valuable player of 2016. The catcher had a standout final season for the Minutemen as the co-captain hit .298 with a team-high nine home runs, which no UMass player has accomplished since Peter Copa in 2011. After an injury-plagued 2015 season, Jennings rebounded nicely as he was one of two players to start in every game for the Minutemen, including 40 games at catcher. In addition to earning UMass honors, Jennings was also named to the Atlantic 10 all-conference second team. He was fourth in the conference in slugging percentage, hitting10 doubles and two triples, and also led the Minutemen in multiple categories including runs batted (32) and runs scored (30). Jennings also had a team-high nine multi-RBI games.

Newly announced captain for the 2017 season Dylan Morris earned the Dennis DellaPiana Memorial Award for exemplifying courage, determination and sportsmanship. The award was first instituted in May 1966 and honors the memory of Dennis DellaPiana, a student-athlete at UMass who tragically died in April of 1966 during his senior year after a long battle with Hodgkin’s disease.

Morris was the only other player to start in all 45 games in 2016 along with Jennings. He ranked second behind Jennings in RBIs and runs scored with 30 and 28, respectively. The outfielder hit .253 finishing the season with 47 hits, two home runs and eight doubles. Morris also had the team’s longest hitting streak of the season with hits in 14 straight games. He will be looked upon for leadership and a strong presence at the top of the lineup in his final season for the Minutemen.

Hart, the other captain for the upcoming season, was given the coaches award for most improved player of 2016 in recognition of his breakout season for the Minutemen. Hart played in all but two games, ending the season with a team-best .313 batting average with 14 RBIs. The Lowell, Massachusetts native scored 25 runs and hit three home runs and seven doubles. In his first season as a full-time starter, Hart proved worthy of the decision.

Hart and Morris will take their leadership into the 2017 season that features a veteran squad. Losing Jennings in the middle of the order will hurt, but the team is returning six starters with three players ready to step in for the graduated seniors. 2016 was a disappointing season for the Minutemen, who finished 18-27 (11-13 A-10), but with a team poised to make a jump, it will be imperative for Morris and Hart to lead this team.

Along with Hart and Morris entering their senior season, the 2017 season will be UMass coach Mike Stone’s last with the program. The long-time coach announced his impending retirement after the 2016 season.

Tyler Fiedler can be reached at tfiedler@umass.edu, and followed on Twitter @Tyler_Fiedler.

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