Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Minutemen looking to 2010 season after surviving cut

By Dan Gigliotti

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The Massachusetts baseball team will look to build upon its best season in six years as it will compete in its first regular season action later this week.

The Minutemen dealt with rumors about a cut in funding that would leave the longstanding program extinct, but finished above .500 in 2009, for the first time since 2003 and registered its highest win total since 2001.

UMass coach Mike Stone acknowledged that his team played with some added incentive last season, but believes that the questions about the baseball program are in the past.

“When there are rumors like that going around,” Stone said. “As a competitor, that puts an extra chip on your shoulder as far as competing and making sure that doesn’t happen again. [But] we haven’t mentioned it this year at all.”

Stone will field a very similar team as last year’s with his entire outfield and pitching staff, with the exception of ace Mitchell Clegg, intact. The middle infield presents some issues with the departure of Adam Tempesta, however, Stone believes that his team could be even better by position.

“We could have more [depth] than last year,” Stone said. “Some people gain some experience and could be better than last year.”

The Minutemen will be tested from the start of the regular season when they go on the road for their first 16-of-18 games. Their trip begins this Friday with a four-game set at Oklahoma State, follows with two games at No. 15 Oklahoma on March 16-17 and finishes with a three-game series at William & Mary March 19-21.

The nine-game opening road trip is the longest for UMass this season. Stone believes the road trip will be an indicator as to how competitive this team can be.

“It’s a very challenging spring trip, there’s no question about that,” Stone said. “We’ll find out what kind of talent we have, what kind of toughness we have and what kind of character we have as soon as the season starts.”

Eight times this season, the Minutemen will play one-game matches against state rivals Harvard as well as Boston College and Northeastern who were featured in Spring Training games against the Boston Red Sox on March 3.

The Minutemen will play their first home game against Hartford on March 24 before they go back on the road for three games at Saint Joseph’s, their first conference series of the season. Their first home series will be against Richmond on April 9-11 following a home-and-home series against Connecticut on April 6-7.

UMass went 16-11 last season in the Atlantic 10, beating Fordham and Charlotte while losing to regular season champion Dayton and eventual tournament champion Xavier. The Minutemen finished out the regular season schedule on a high-note with a six-game win streak,

“It’s a good league, a strong league, and we hope to be right in the thick of things,” Stone said. “It’s hard to make predictions, but we’re just going to go out there every day, put out a good effort and see what happens.”

The Minutemen will throw their first pitch on Friday at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium in Stillwater, Ok, against the Cowboys.

Stone said he is anxious to field his team after a long offseason.

“We’ve practiced since December. We’re in our seventh week of practice now, so we’re ready to start playing some games,” Stone said.

Dan Gigliotti can be reached at [email protected]

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