McLam, Conley leading the charge

By Scott Cournoyer

Being a sophomore often means going through “growing pains.”

Rehan Talat/Collegian

In the case of Rob McLam, however, little traces of hardship are apparent whenever he steps to the plate for the Massachusetts baseball team.

McLam has burst onto the college scene this season, hitting .355 (second on the team) through 12 games this spring. With a full-time role at second base in 2012, the sky could be the limit for the Terryville, Conn., native.

In 23 at-bats as a freshman, McLam hit .304 while driving in three RBIs and scoring four runs.

McLam earned three letters while playing second and third base at Holy Cross High School. He hit .551 (91-for-165) during his tenure, while also being named one of the Top 40 high school juniors in Connecticut in 2009.

Only time will tell if the youngster will continue to flourish.

Conley displays durability

For a pitcher, having a durable catcher can make a significant difference in his success.

Senior Tom Conley, in his fourth year behind the plate for UMass, has been the leadership and durability factor for the team thus far. He obtained the job his freshman year, and since then has been determined to never relinquish it.

“When I came in, we had just lost a four-year catcher [Bryan Garrity], and coach [Mike Stone] was looking to fill the spot long term,” said Conley. “Once he gave me the job full-time, I wanted to do anything to make sure I was ready to play every day and not let it go.”

Conley has caught 145 of a possible 158 college games, a true model of durability, which serves as a distinct advantage at times.

“I play hurt, but so does everyone else,” said Conley. “I just really try to say consistent and be out there for everyone.”

The Quincy native is a .295 lifetime hitter and is a threat to hit over .300 by season’s end. He came within one average point (.299) of reaching the mark last season.

Conley is, as usual, tabbed to carry the load behind the plate in 2012.

Expectations couldn’t be any higher for Conley, who is the backbone for stability and a fundamental piece to the puzzle as the Minutemen look to climb the Atlantic 10 standings.

“It would be great to get back to the A-10 tournament,” said Conley, who last played in the conference postseason tournament in 2009. “Playing in the playoffs is at another level, to get back there during my senior season, it would feel great to go out like that.”

1-run games the difference

In baseball, one run can change entire games, series and even seasons when it comes down to the wire.

Through only 12 games this season, UMass is 2-6 in eight games decided by one run, which surpasses last season’s total of seven.

“It’s been crazy to play in all these close games so far,” said Conley. “It’s was a difference for us last year, and playing in all these tight games so far this year, it’s a difference for us again.”

Scott Cournoyer can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Cournoyer.