UMass baseball preparing for big test against UTRGV

Minutemen looking to get back on track after loss to Navy


(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

By Ethan Nash, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts baseball team will be looking for more consistency at the plate this weekend when they travel to Texas to take on the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

“The biggest thing with our lineup is approach at the plate,” said sophomore outfielder Luke Oliphant. “Hunting fastballs early, you get to two strikes, fighting them off, making the most out of it. We’ve had some success, not a lot of run production so far, but when the end of the game comes, we find a way.”

Oliphant has been one of the best hitters for the Minutemen (3-1) so far this season. In 15 plate appearances, he’s hitting .333 with a .444 on base percentage.

“[UTRGV has] played in the warmer weather,” Oliphant said, “but I think once we get down there, the bats start rolling. I think with what coach [Matt Reynolds] is putting out there and a lot of guys coming off the bench, young guys, I think we have a lot of potential and I think our upperclassmen and underclassmen see that.”

Pitcher Sean Harney reiterated Oliphant’s comments.

“The bats have been pretty alive, just haven’t been one after another,” Harney said. “Once it comes together, I think we’ll be flowing and getting a lot of run support and once that happens I think we’ll get on a little win streak.”

UTRGV (9-4) has scored at least seven runs in each game during their recent four-game sweep of University of Rhode Island.

“I think we’re going to face some good competition,” Reynolds said. “I think it’s going to resemble what we need to be able to do in the Atlantic 10, so I think that’s going to be a positive for us regardless of the outcomes.

“The environment is going to be such that we’re going to get into the routine of playing Friday, Saturday, Sunday.”

The Minutemen opened the season on a three-game winning streak before falling to Navy on Sunday afternoon 12-4 in an abbreviated game due to weather. During that three-game winning streak, they gave up only one run thanks – in large part – to the pitching of Harney and Justin Lasko.

“Just keep on pounding the strike zone,” said Harney when asked about what needs to continue for the Minutemen bullpen. “Just have trust in our fielders behind us and we’ll be all set.”

With UTRGV having already played 12 home games on the year, Harney sees it as an opportunity for UMass to come in and disrupt their rhythm.

“We’ll just have to roll with those punches,” Harney said. “I don’t see that as a disadvantage. I mean they’re probably in their full season mode but I think we’ll be able to surprise them and a lot of people that are watching us down there.”

UMass will see action during the majority of next week, taking on the likes of Incarnate Word, Texas A&M, Corpus Christi and Kennesaw State. The Minutemen don’t play their first home game of the year until March 26. Reynolds sees it as part of the job.

“I think it just is what it is,” Reynolds said. “It’s part of being a northeast baseball program. Having a natural surface field obviously prevents challenges because we can’t plough. Most [teams] up here are in relatively the same boat in terms of weather. It’s part of the gig.”

First pitch is scheduled for 8 p.m. this Friday in Texas.

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