UMass baseball aiming for A-10 playoff appearance

Minutemen look to rebound after tough 2018 season

By Ethan Nash, Collegian Staff

After a disappointing 2018 campaign, the Massachusetts baseball team is geared up and ready to go for the 2019 season.

Head coach Matt Reynolds is looking forward to getting the team back on track after the Minutemen went 15-29 overall and 6-18 in the Atlantic 10 in Reynolds’ first year at the helm.

“I think I’ve learned something every year as a coach,” said Reynolds. “We’re continuing to evolve every single year. I think that my first year was certainly a learning experience, you know getting back to the Division I level after being at the D-III level for three years.”

Reynolds is satisfied with the way the team has progressed in the offseason. He believes the Minutemen are prepared for whatever challenges may lie ahead.

“I think any first-year coach has a big learning curve on and off the field,” he said. “I can say that I feel a whole heck of a lot more comfortable with our level of preparation to this point. I think that we’re way ahead in terms of preparation.”

Reynolds said a lot of the focus in the offseason went toward improving the team’s offensive production. The team hit a total of 12 home runs last season, while allowing 27.

“We knew we needed to bolster our offense,” said Reynolds. “Some things in particular were really working hard on our approaches at the plate. We’re really trying to make an effort to cut down on our strikeouts. Our situational hitting was an issue for us last year and we’ve really focused on that a lot.”

One of the bright spots of last year’s team was the hitting of now junior infielder Eddy Hart. Hart hit for an average of .298 last season with a .379 OBP and an .817 OPS, all three of which were team highs.

“I think that I’ve kind of just grown more comfortable,” said Hart about his offensive approach heading into this season. “But I don’t really think about last year. I just kind of go in with the same mentality and go day-by-day.”

Hart hopes the team can take the next step and make some noise during the season and potentially into the playoffs.

He said, “[My expectation is] to make the A-10 playoffs. I think that should be every team’s goal and I think that should certainly be ours.”

Hart believes that if everyone does their job, the team will be successful.

“Some guys did well last year when other guys didn’t,” said Hart. “I think it’s just putting all the pieces together, kind of every guy doing what they’re capable of doing all at the same time.”

Right handed pitcher Justin Lasko is another returner who shined last season for the Minutemen. In 12 games, Lasko tallied a team-high five wins to go along with a 2.52 ERA and three complete games. Lasko pitched in the Cape Cod League this past summer and is hoping he can translate what he learned from that experience into another successful year as the team’s ace.

“It’s just seeing the way that those guys from the big-time schools, the prestigious coaches, how they go about doing their business,” said Lasko about what he learned on the Cape. “You know, the way they attack each day at the field whether they’re playing or not. You can pick their brains a little bit, you see how they do things. It’s just one of those things you can bring back and instill in your own team.”

Similar to Hart, Lasko has high expectations for the team in his senior season.

“First and foremost, win game one,” said Lasko. “Other than that, I mean just going out there and playing hard every single day. I expect to see some success in that. Making the A-10 playoffs is obviously our number one goal. We do that and you never know what could happen. Anyone can go ahead and get hot at any given time so making the playoffs would be a big step for us.

“It’s the last time out there with some of these guys that, you know, I’ll never play with them again. So just looking forward to cherishing every single moment, just spending time with my teammates and going out there and winning some ballgames.”

With opening day just around the corner, the Minutemen are eager to get going and make their mark on the 2019 season.

“I’m just looking forward to tomorrow, honestly, like the first game” said Hart. “I haven’t really thought about anything else. I don’t know when we’re leaving for our spring break trip, I don’t know who we play after, I just know that we play tomorrow.”

In case Hart was curious, the Minutemen open their season on the road with a three-game series at Central Connecticut this coming weekend.

Ethan Nash can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @ethan_nash15.