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

The dramatic growth of Dylan Morris’ offensive game

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)
(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

Entering the 2016 season, junior outfielder Dylan Morris expected to find success at the plate for the Massachusetts baseball team. So far, with a .325 batting average through UMass’s first 19 games, that expectation has come true.

But let’s take a step back.

When the season ended for the Minutemen (6-13, 2-4 Atlantic 10) last year, Morris’s batting statistics didn’t exactly jump off the page. Starting 38 games in the outfield, he finished 2015 with a .219 batting average, 11 runs scored, one home run, seven RBIs and just six walks. He also struck out 40 times.

Morris knew he could be a lot better than those numbers showed, so he went into the offseason ready to work on a few facets of his game at the plate. He did that by playing summer baseball with the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod League and the Bristol Blues of the Futures League.

“During summer ball, I had a lot of time to myself where I kind of worked on a couple of different things,” he said. “Weightlifting obviously helped. Training with heavy bats helped. I worked a lot on seeing the ball more closely than I would last year.”

“I would see the ball (last year), but I wouldn’t really try and focus on the spin of the ball – pitch recognition. I just worked on a lot of little things … see that curveball a little earlier. Plate discipline – not chasing as many balls out of the zone. Getting my whole body into the swing.”

Surrounded by a lot of talent in that span, Morris found a lot of help along the way in improving his batting skills. When asked if his experiences with the two teams had a major impact on his game now, he quickly and emphatically responded, “absolutely.”

“The coaches in Falmouth were great, they helped my swing out a lot,” he said. “A couple days into my batting practices, they offered a lot of suggestions as to what I could be doing better in my swing. In Bristol, it was really good too because my teammates all had different approaches to hitting. Just the more good baseball you’re surrounded by, the better of a player you will be.”

Fast-forward back to real time and the results of all that summer work are as clear as day.

In 2015, his batting average through the first 19 games stood at a mere .169. Now, Morris’ .325 mark ranks second on the team behind Mike Hart. The junior’s 14 runs have already surpassed his total from last season and flashes of power have leaked out as well (his two homers and 13 RBIs also rank second). Until recently, Morris even carried a 13-game hitting streak which could have extended further if it weren’t for the week-long gap between games due to postponements and cancellations.

Overall, UMass coach Mike Stone has been very impressed with the improvements he has seen from his No. 2 hitter in the lineup and recognizes the work ethic Morris carries to get better.

“I think his preparation (is different),” Stone said. “He’s taking a lot of extra swings; he’s gaining a lot of confidence. He’s swinging the bat more efficiently (and) is seeing the ball better. He’s working at it.

“He’s on a mission. He is really out to prove the kind of ballplayer that he can be … and gets after it. I think he’s always been a guy to play hard and been passionate about the game. He has totally elevated his focus even more this year.”

If Tuesday’s matchup against Central Connecticut isn’t rained out, Morris will get another chance to continue what has been a career season to this point, as the Minutemen are set to take on the Blue Devils at 3 p.m.

Tom Mulherin can be reached at [email protected].

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