UM breakdown by position

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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The 2007 season for the Massachusetts baseball team (0-3) hits full swing tomorrow for the first of five games in Bradenton, Fla. This year’s team looks much like the 2006 Minutemen – a team that finished 14-30 – but that makes for a much more experienced group under coach Mike Stone.

Catchers

UMass pitchers struggled mightily last season and are still a young bunch. Fortunately for them, they have a veteran backstop to throw to in Bryan Garrity. The junior co-captain has been the primary starter since he arrived at Amherst and provides a consistent bat in addition to his leadership qualities.

Garrity has ended each of his seasons with a .264 batting average and has slowly improved his eye at the plate, leading to more walks and a higher on-base percentage. Garrity has opened the season sixth on the order, leading the team in batting average and RBIs in the early going.

Three additional catchers are on the roster, most notably Frank McPherson. The senior started eight games for the Minutemen, but managed only one hit in 25 at-bats. Incoming freshman Matt Lawlor and Ben Kessel could see minimal time backing up Garrity, as well.

Corner Infielders

The Minutemen lack thumpers in the middle of the order, but first baseman Bryan Adamski (senior) and third baseman Ryan Franczek (junior) are the only two players who could be construed as power hitters on this roster. The corner infielders were the only players on the team that hit more than one home run last season. They each hit four long balls and Franczek (27) edged out Adamski (26) for the team-lead in RBIs.

Franczek had a well-rounded season, hitting .307 while leading the team in runs (33), triples (4), total bases (79) and slugging percentage (.476). Adamski wasn’t far behind, hitting .294 and finishing at or near the top in every major statistical category.

Sophomore Jim MacDonald – who started 38 games in 2006 – will backup Franczek at the hot corner and see some time as the designated hitter. MacDonald struggled at the plate all year long, finishing last on the team with a .221 average. Junior Andy Tuetken will fill in at first base for Adamski.

Middle Infielders

The strength of the Minutemen lineup is up the middle. Senior shortstop Lou Proietti and sophomore second baseman Adam Tempesta were not only double play partners, but finished first and second on the team in batting average.

Proietti was superb, pacing the Minutemen with his .331 average, .411 on base percentage and 16 stolen bases. Tempesta was equally impressive in his freshman year, hitting .311 with a team-high 16 doubles. Tempesta displayed terrific bat control, striking out only 12 times in 177 at bats.

Not only were they the only two players to appear in all 44 games, but neither of them missed a single start. The pair struggled a bit defensively, though, with Proietti ending the year with 18 errors and Tempesta with 15.

Outfielders

The four leading hitters from last year are all infielders. Needless to say, the outfield has to step up in a big way if 2007 is going to be successful on offense. That responsibility will be placed on seniors Bill Rankin and co-captain Travis Munsey.

Rankin started just 17 games a season ago, but played well in his limited time, finishing with a .284 average. Rankin’s success is critical to the order because he is the only left-handed hitter in the lineup other than Proietti. Rankin’s early struggles so far – he’s 0-11 with three strikeouts – need to be corrected to keep some balance in the lineup.

Munsey played in 30 games last season, and led the team in sacrifices (10), while hitting .276. Munsey, much like the rest of his teammates, needs to work on his plate discipline – as he only managed two walks in 89 plate appearances. His senior leadership helps, but they need him to get on base more regularly.

With Rankin in center and Munsey in right field, it appears freshman Brian Baudinet will see the majority of starts in left. Junior Jim Cassidy will also see plenty of action this season, splitting time in the outfield and at designated hitter. Two freshmen – Mike Donato and Garrett Glashoff – should also see some time roaming the outfield.

Pitching Staff

The offense may have been a struggle in 2006, but the pitching was even worse. The UMass team ERA (6.07) was almost two more runs per game higher than its opponents. The staff remains mostly the same this year, but the Maroon and White lost perhaps its best starter, David Sullivan, to graduation.

The pitching is more experienced this year, and with that will likely come improvement. However, one major problem the Minutemen will face all season long is the lack of left-handed arms on their staff. In fact, UMass is devoid of even one southpaw on the roster and it will be difficult to match up against left-handed batters.

Senior Chris Lloyd (started in the opener) is the de facto ace of the rotation, although his 0-6 record and 6.22 ERA last year would argue otherwise. Lloyd needs to improve greatly in his senior season for the Minutemen to be more competitive.

Jared Freni, a freshman, could very well emerge as the staff ace as the season progresses. He was solid in his first career start on Saturday and much is expected of him. Rounding out the rotation will likely be sophomore Mike Dicato (7.27 ERA in 2006) and senior Rory McDonald – who was 2-4 with a 5.48 ERA in 11 starts last year.

Stone will hand the ball to junior Aaron Smith and slugger/hurler Adamski in the later innings to close out ballgames. They were the only two pitchers on the team last season to finish with earned run averages below five. Adamski had five of the team’s seven saves last season and led the team with his 3.60 ERA.

The remainder of the bullpen is extremely young and inexperienced and will be led mostly by Ryan Walczak, Mitchell Eilenberg and Tim Comiskey.

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]