The Massachusetts baseball team will start its 2010 season with a mix of experience, consisting of eight freshmen, eight sophomores, nine juniors and seven seniors.
UMass coach Mike Stone feels fortunate for how his roster happened to work out this year, and hopes this mix of youth and experience will translate into a successful team on the field.
The Minutemen are coming off their first winning season since 2003. However, in order to keep the streak going, they will have to overcome the losses of last year’s seniors, including Mitchell Clegg, Mitchell Eilenberg, Jim MacDonald and Adam Tempesta.
Clegg led the team in wins by going 7-1 with a 4.15 earned run average in 91 innings pitched as a starting pitcher, Eilenberg led the staff with 21 appearances and MacDonald batted .343 last season and led the team with 53 runs batted in while sharing the team lead in home runs (nine) with Kyle Multner. Tempesta was reliable as the everyday second baseman, compiling 72 hits for a .341 average, and leading the team with 19 doubles.
“You can’t dwell on it,” Stone said. “We have to move on and hopefully other people will step forward and take leadership positions.”
Stone will rely on Brian Baudinet, who is entering his second year as team captain, as well as fellow seniors Mike Donato and Jared Freni, who make up the rest of the captains.
Both Baudinet and Donato set a program record by starting all 53 games last year, while Freni led the pitching staff in starts with 15.
Another player who’s been durable for the Minutemen is Tom Conley, who became the full-time starting catcher as a freshman in 2009, playing in 49 games and starting 46 of them. He even contributed on the offensive side of the diamond, leading the team with a .424 on-base percentage.
“He had a good season last year, made the all [Atlantic 10] rookie team,” Stone said. “We had a pretty good idea that [Conley] had the temperament to play. He’s not intimidated. He’s got a lot of potential to be a solid catcher. We’re looking for an improved year.”
Yet, perhaps no player exhibited as much all-around versatility in 2009 as current senior Mike Gedman, who led the Minutemen with a .345 batting average and stole a team-high nine bases, while playing in 37 games. He also put up solid pitching numbers, boasting a 2.42 ERA and a .191 batting average against.
Out of the group of incoming freshmen, Ryan Cusick will have an opportunity to fill the vacant second baseman position and play alongside junior shortstop Cameron McMullen. Rich Graef and Anthony Serino are also possible candidates to see significant playing time in the outfield. Right-handed pitchers Aaron Zaleznik and Ron Wallace will try to earn themselves a number of appearances out of the bullpen.
For now, Stone is comfortable with how his pitching staff is shaping up.
“We feel pretty good about our top six guys and we need to see how the bottom six or seven people progress,” Stone said. “We need to stay injury free and have everyone competing and doing well. We strive for everybody to click on all cylinders.”
Pete Vasquez can be reached at [email protected]