Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Ryan Cusick bright spot at top of struggling Minutemen lineup

Maria Uminski/Collegian

At the top of the Massachusetts baseball team’s lineup is scrappy red shirt sophomore Ryan Cusick.

The pesky Minutemen designated hitter and second basemen has a knack for getting on base and leads his team in multiple offensive categories, setting the pace in the leadoff spot in every game.

A strong performance was expected of Cusick from the start of the season considering his strong freshmen season and was redshirted the following year. He hit first in the lineup for the majority of  his freshman season and batted .297 for UMass with 11 RBIs and 34 runs scored. The Gloucester native also drew 15 walks while stealing a team-leading eight bases.

Cusick was nominated to the Atlantic 10 All Rookie Team after his spectacular performance at the plate in 2010. So far, he has done nothing but carry his success into 2012.

Cusick is tied for the team lead with 16 hits this season in his team-high 62 at-bats. When Cusick gets on base, he is an automatic threat to take a base with 12 steals in 13 attempts this season, already passing his total from 2010.

His ability to steal bases and work his way on base directly correlates to his Minutemen-leading 15 runs scored. UMass has taken more of a scrappy offensive mindset this season and his production at the top of the lineup has had a huge impact on each game.

“I think it’s been a different offense this year, maybe not as explosive. It’s a different look but I think we can continue put up a lot of runs this way”, said senior catcher Tom Conley.

The 5-foot-8 Cusick has five doubles on the season and two triples, giving him a .403 slugging percentage, which is good for second on the team. Cusick’s speed on the base paths allows him to extend base hits into extra base hits, an ability that not many players can match.

Cusick carries a four-game hitting streak into the conference series that begins Thursday when UMass hosts La Salle. The leadoff hitter will try to do his part to help the Minutemen offense produce more runs as UMass has been outscored 21-9 in its past two games.

Although the Minutemen carry at 6-10 record so far this season, they’re 2-1 in the A-10 heading into conference play beginning this week.

Cusick and the Minutemen offense will need to get the bats going as the team is hitting just .231 on the season with a less-than-stellar .279 slugging percentage. The only two A-10 teams with a lower batting average are Fordham and Saint Joseph’s and only Saint Joseph’s has a lower slugging percentage than UMass.

“This team can score runs, it is just a matter of people buying in to what our philosophy is and to put the team first, put runners into scoring position and we need to start driving them in,” said UMass coach Mike Stone.

Chris Corso can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Corso.

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