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

UMass opens season against Kentucky

(Alex Aritan/Daily Collegian)
(Alex Aritan/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts baseball team might have been dreaming of warmer weather in preparation of their season-opening trip to Kentucky this weekend for a four game series. However, in an ironic twist, a winter storm rolled through Lexington. Kentucky Wednesday night, and temperatures are expected to stay in the 30s this weekend.

Despite this obstacle, the Minutemen are just excited to get down there and start their 2015 season.

“I would imagine they are very excited,” Coach Mike Stone said. “It has been a long indoor preseason and I would believe they are ready to go.”

UMass will have a tough task in their first series of the season, as they face Kentucky. The Wildcats are off to a hot start and sit at 9-3 through their first 12 games.

Kyle Barrett, Thomas Bernal and Ka’ai Tom lead Kentucky in hitting, with all three hitting over .345 to start the season. It’ll be a tough task for the Minutemen pitching staff to keep the Wildcats lineup quiet, as Kentucky is batting .313 as a team with six home runs.

“They’re a strong team, an SEC team, and a team that is going to be a great challenge for us,” Stone said. “But we are excited to face them. We hope to throw strikes and play good, solid defense.

“Our game plan is to get good, tough pitching,” Stone said. “We got Conor LeBlanc going, he is a courageous type guy and a strike thrower.”

LeBlanc, a senior captain, will get the opening day start on Friday after going 3-4 with a 3.98 earned run average in 13 starts last season. Other pitchers expected to see action this weekend are sophomores Tim Cassidy, Ryan Moloney and Mike Geannelis, junior Brandon Walsh and senior Andrew Grant.

The Wildcats counter with a strong pitching staff of their own. Led by starter Dustin Beggs (1-1, 2.08 earned run average), Kentucky pitchers have registered a 3.60 ERA and struck out 104 hitters in 110 innings.

The Wildcat pitchers have held opponents to a .246 batting average.

“We need a to have a good approach and be calm and composed in the batters box,” coach Stone said. “We have to have good quality at-bats and try not to do too much.”

Geannelis was a major surprise for the Minutemen his freshman year, leading the team in hitting and earning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year honors. He hit .347 in 26 starts. A year older and more experienced, Geannelis is expected to be a big part of the UMass lineup. Redshirt senior Rob McLam will return after missing all of 2014 with an injury. In 2013, he led the team in hitting, and getting him back along with Geannelis should give the Minutemen a formidable duo in the middle of the order.

UMass will have its hands full in the first series of 2015. Playing in a warmer climate, Kentucky is already 12 games into their season and has a bit of head start over UMass.

“Expectations are that we will have a great effort, great attitude and compete,” coach Stone said. “If we do these things we will compete and hopefully pull out a couple of wins.”

The Minutemen have been stuck inside for the whole preseason with a record amount of snow on the ground but Stone is excited and feels like his team is prepared to start the season.

“We are as prepared as we can be,” Stone said.

First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. in Lexington, Kentucky on Friday.

Tyler Fiedler can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @Tyler_Fiedler.

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