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

Mike Geannelis feels confident at the plate, looks to improve pitching for UMass baseball

(Erica Lowenkron/Daily Collegian)

Versatility is key when it comes to almost any sport. For the Massachusetts baseball team, Mike Geannelis’ ability to pitch and hit effectively is key to revitalizing its season that has slipped to 10 games under .500 through the first 24 games.

One of the major reasons for the slow start was the absence of Geannelis from the team’s lineup early on this season. The junior first baseman and right-handed pitcher was suspended 15 games for a team-related infraction. Since coming back on the field, Geannelis has played in eight games with his presence in the lineup being prevalent – hitting at a .370 clip, knocking five doubles and an on-base percentage of .455.

“He’s a talented player,” Minutemen coach Mike Stone said. “It’s important that the guys who are talented are able to contribute.”

The Williamstown native had two hits in three at-bats as the team’s designated hitter in Sunday’s 17-7 defeat at the hands of Saint Joseph’s, who took all three games in the weekend series. Geannelis had two runs batted in, but also pitched 2/3 innings of relief, allowing five runs (one earned), two hits, while walking one, hitting another and tossing two wild pitches. His struggles on the mound are not independent of Sunday, however, as Geannelis holds a hefty 8.22 earned run average in 7.2 innings of relief.

“Physically, I feel fine,” he said. “I’ve been hitting pretty well but on the pitching aspect, I’m trying to do too much. You learn from every outing like this. You learn from every loss and every win, so that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to stay positive.

“Obviously, I’m not putting up numbers that I want to. I’m not helping the team win. It’s what you do from here. You take it for what it is and you learn from it.”

“He’s a talented athlete,” Stone added. “He struggled on the mound (Sunday). So far, he’s swinging the bat well. It’s taken him a little bit of time to adjust. It’s been about two and a half weeks since he pitched for the first time. You would expect that he would start to settle in on the mound a little bit, but it was once again a struggle.”

When asks what he believes has been plaguing the UMass star, Stone said, “Not sure. I’m not sure what it is. I think the ball is coming out of his hand well. Today he got behind in the counts early. (Saint Joe’s) had some pretty talented hitters and they feasted off our guys, not just him.”

The No. 5 hitter in the UMass (7-17, 2-7 Atlantic 10) lineup is in the middle of a strong part of the order that sees Mike Hart (.314 average, six RBIs, .422 OBP) and John Jennings (.323 average, five home runs, 18 RBIs) hit in front of him. Geannelis said he was pleased to be hitting in such a big spot in the lineup.

“It’s definitely an honor to be trusted like that,” he said. “It’s just an honor that they have that trust in me and when things don’t go your way, you have to keep bearing down and keep working hard.”

Stone added: “You want the middle of your lineup in there with the opportunity to drive people in. Everybody’s got to contribute. For the team to be successful, everybody has to contribute.”

Geannelis has a proven track record of success as a Minuteman. As a freshman in 2014, he was the first member in team history to be awarded Atlantic 10 rookie of the year honors, was a member of the A-10 all-rookie team and was featured on the All-New England second team. During that season, Geannelis led the team in batting average (.347) and hit five doubles, two home runs, and drove in 16 runs in 29 games.

Geannelis understands that his versatility and ability to not only be an impactful bat in the lineup, but a serviceable pitcher on the mound is essential for UMass to return to greener pastures, and is not concerned about his recent struggles on the bump.

“Playing on both sides of the ball, it’s been – I’m taking it for what it is. Coach trusts me to do both, so it’s been hard to go from first to the mound and make that adjustment, Geannlis said.

“I’ve been trying to be perfect on the mound when clearly I haven’t been. I know I’m better than what I’m doing and I think I’m pressing a little too much. But offensively, it feels good.”

Kyle DaLuz can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Kyle_DaLuz.

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