UMass baseball’s outfield takes a new look entering season

By Tom Mulherin

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Collegian File Photo)

(Collegian File Photo)

While its 2015 season didn’t have much to cheer about through a 16-27 record, the Massachusetts baseball team found a noteworthy groove last year in the outfield behind the play of senior starters Kyle Adie and Adam Picard.

Much of the Minutemen’s success on offense could be attributed in one way or another to the performances of the duo, who together combined to lead the team in 11 different offensive categories at the top of the lineup. As a result, Adie was named UMass’ Most Valuable Player and Picard co-received the Dennis DellaPiana Memorial Award for his determination and courage throughout the year.

But with both former starters gone due to graduation, the Minutemen find themselves restructuring the look of the outfield’s starting group. Junior Dylan Morris is the only outfielder remaining from the bunch that started at least 20 games (nearly half of the season), so not much is left from the success the outfield found last year.

Losing two of the Minutemen’s better hitters serves quite an impact, but UMass coach Mike Stone isn’t caught up on the outfielders’ departure and has faith in the group on the current roster.

“They were good players for us but we’ve moved on,” Stone said. “We have other people who have played for us in the fall. We feel good about our outfield at this point in the season. Really, that’s not a consideration for us, you know, who’s left – it’s really more of the people who are here right now.

Morris recognized that the Minutemen will miss the both Adie and Picard for all of their contributions, but at the same time he echoed his coach’s thoughts and believes in the current group of outfielders UMass holds for the upcoming season. After laying out his plans to lead by example as an upperclassman and to provide more energy at practices on top of games, Morris says the outfield will succeed if it makes the extra effort on every play.

“We need everybody to work hard, the younger guys to work hard, and they have,” Morris said. “It’s all the little things, they’re important (backing up bases, hitting cut-offs, etc.). We have to work for every inch. Add all the inches together and we have a winning team.

As far as what the starting unit looks like at the moment, Stone hinted at a layout of Morris in left field, junior Mike Hart in right field and either sophomore Brett Evangelista or Dylan Robinson in center field. However, Stone didn’t exactly identify his choice of starters for the long season, noting that sophomore Hunter Carey has proven he is worth a look and freshman Logan Greene is in the mix as well.

Morris finished with a .219 average last year to go along with 30 hits and seven RBIs while Hart had 10 hits in 21 games for a .233 average. Evangelista, Robinson and Carey all played in more than 10 games in 2015.

While the group has taken on a younger look at its core, Stone cited a lot of positive outlooks within the outfield when talking about his expectations.

“I think we should have a good quality outfield that we’ve been putting together,” Stone said. “Evangelista, he can go get the ball in the outfield; he has a lot of speed, gets good jumps. He has a good throwing arm – all of the outfielders have worked hard and have improved as far as their jumps, tracking the ball and also their strength of their throwing arms.”

While the offensive output that came from Adie and Picard will be hard to replace, Stone looks to Evangelista to make up for the lost offense.

“Brett was our leadoff guy in the fall and did a nice job,” Stone said. “Right now, he could be a leadoff guy for us; that was where he played last year. He can steal bases, he can run, he can handle the bat … advance base runners as well. He’s a scrappy line-drive hitter and he’s very aggressive on the bases.”

Evangelista was 6-for-38 (.158) last year at the plate and scored five runs.

Overall, Morris spoke highly of his teammates when reflecting what he expects of them in the outfield and even stretched as far as to say he believes the Minutemen will field the best team he’s seen in his tenure. Stone encouraged his outfielder’s comments when asked about them and went on to build around those words.

“I agree,” Stone said. “I think not only do we have the talent and skill; we have a real good chemistry at this point. We’re optimistic, we have a lot of energy … all those things are really important to me in putting together a ball club. I think that we’ve got everything so far this year heading in the right direction and so we’re very optimistic and excited about the start of the season.”

Tom Mulherin can be reached at [email protected]