Incoming freshmen making early impact

By Scott Cournoyer

Replacing valuable veteran leadership lost year-to-year is the key to success at the college level. Massachusetts baseball coach Mike Stone, with 13 freshmen on the scene for this season, has work to do to help fill the voids left by last year’s seniors.

Filling those voids inevitably comes with having to find immediate contributions from youngsters, more likely than not before their skills have time to adjust to the next level. One such freshman, Kyle Adie, has been thrown into center field but has shown great strides, not succumbing to the sometimes intimidating circumstances that young players face early on in their collegiate careers.

“We’ve tried him out in center field for us and he’s shown that he’s not intimated and that he’s ready for the challenge,” said Stone. “He’s learning as he goes along and he’s been really good for us so far.”

Adie is batting .333 this year, showing plate discipline (he’s second on the team with a .474 OBP) and a flash of speed, recording a steal early this season.

“I feel like we’re really starting to get into a groove out there,” said Adie. “At first, we were struggling. But it takes time to adjust and we’ve certainly made some necessary ones and it’s paying off.”

 The Dracut, Mass. native broke out in his last two games against Northwestern and the University of Maryland Baltimore County, going a combined 4-for-6 with two runs batted in, two runs scored and two walks.

 “I definitely need to work more on my hitting,” said Adie. “It took some adjustment at the plate with the new (BBCOR) bats, but we’re all getting the hang of it and I think we’re only getting better.”

Until the recent leg injury, Adam Picard was another young recruit ready to take over significant duties in the outfield for UMass. Picard was batting .286 in 21 at-bats with three doubles and four RBIs.

In a game against Bucknell on March 18, Picard injured his leg playing right field when he slid into a chain-linked fence attempting to make a running catch on a fly ball. The injury is expected to sideline the freshman for four-to-six weeks.

Dylan Begin has come onto the scene recently for the Minutemen, showing power to the gaps. The first baseman has started seven games for UMass, blasting a homerun and recording two RBIs in his last game against UMBC. The homer, though, was one of only three hits so far this season for Being, who is 3-for-22 (.136).

“He’s been a real nice contributor for us,” said Stone. “He’s got good power behind his bat and I expect him to continue to grow and mature as the season goes along.”

Another first baseman, Nik Campero was struggling with making contact at the plate against collegiate pitching early on. Going into the Bucknell contest, Campero was just 1-for-10 at the plate. In the top of the eighth, Campero laced a single to drive home a pair of runs with two outs, which UMass would need as it held on for the 6-4 victory.

 “Your mentality’s a lot different because you haven’t been in the game,” said Campero following the Bucknell game. “So the key is to relax in the box and see a pitch to hit and just drive it.”

On the mound, Ryan Lubreski has undoubtedly been the best of the newcomers for the program. In three appearances, the North Plainfield, N.J. native has compiled a 4.91 earned run average, striking out seven batters in 7.1 innings of work. In his first collegiate start against Army on March 15, Lubreski went 4.3 innings, striking out three.

Only time will tell if the contributing freshmen will make the necessary adjustments to help the team above and beyond the preseason predictions by the Atlantic 10 polls at the start of the year. With so many newcomers, Stone believes that maturity and leadership will have to emerge both on and off the field from new players making everyday contributions.

“We’re in a good place right now, winning the last few games,” said Stone. “But in order to continue it, we need to keep working hard and I feel we have the guys that come in and work hard every day. We just need to continue it, and the results will be there.”

Scott Cournoyer can be reached at [email protected]