UMass heads to Navy for weekend series

Captain Eddy Hart’s availability is up in the air

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Collegian File Photo

By Joseph Aliberti, Collegian Staff

After dropping the last two games of its season-opening series last weekend, the Massachusetts men’s baseball team heads down to Annapolis, Maryland this weekend for a three-game series with Navy.

The Midshipmen (6-1) have had success this season against Georgetown, Air Force and Coppin State and are currently on a six-game winning streak heading into this weekend against the Minutemen (1-2).

UMass is coming off of an unfavorable weekend against Delaware State, where the main source of offense was junior first basemen/left fielder Anthony Videtto, who finished the weekend with a .556 batting average, 1.222 slugging percentage, four RBIs, three doubles and a home run.

Navy has a slugger of its own in Zach Stevens, who has a .440 batting average, 1.080 slugging percentage, six RBIs, five doubles and three home runs through seven games.

“With a situation like Navy, they got one bat that you don’t want to beat you,” UMass coach Matt Reynolds said. “You got to try to make sure that the hot guy or their best hitter doesn’t beat you when you can avoid him. This was the case with [Delaware State] where their three hitter was more dangerous than everybody else. Sometimes you pitch around him and sometimes you just have to do a really great job of locating, which will be the same [this weekend]. We can’t let Stevens beat us.”

One situation to monitor for the Minutemen is the status of team captain and starting second baseman Eddy Hart. Hart had limited play last week, only getting up to the plate three times, all in the second game. He went one for two in the game with a single and a walk. Hart also was a pinch runner in the third game, but never had an at-bat.

“Still unclear at this point, but we should find out more today,” Reynolds said. “We’re still up in the air right now.”

Without Hart, there isn’t much game experience unless Videtto is at first base. If Hart does not play, and they stick Videtto in left field, they would likely have two sophomores and two freshman in the infield, with sophomores Steve Luttazi and Christian Walsh at first and third, then Jordan Erbe and Chris Pearsons at second base and shortstop. If Hart does play, the UMass infield will look much different.

“I think it depends on Eddy’s status a little bit,” Reynolds said. “We will have to see what transpires there and that will dictate where guys move but it is good that we’ve got some pieces that can move around and we’re confident with to weather the storm and hopefully Eddy gets back here soon.”

Several of the UMass starters made their collegiate debuts last weekend. Erbe, Pearsons, Jack Whorf, and Ryan Coleman are all freshmen, with zero experience in a college baseball game up until the series with Delaware State.

“In some ways because of our youth, we have a tremendous opportunity to continue to grow,” Reynolds said. “I think that there’s a lot of growth that needs to go on, and legitimately can during the year. I think this is a unique team that has got an opportunity to get much better as the season wears on. So we just have to focus on making sure we do that and learn from our experiences.”

As a result of the solid starting pitching last weekend, Sean Harney, Ben Shields, and Jack Steele will all find their way to the mound for a start again this weekend. The bullpen will likely be trying out new things and seeing what works best, as a result of the struggles in the final game of the weekend against the Hornets.

“It just depends on how the games go,” Reynolds said. “It was good that we got a bunch of guys into the game last weekend and I anticipate a similar weekend where we see a lot of names in the box score at some point. I think right now, roles aren’t defined yet.”

Factors such as Hart’s health, bullpen pitching and offense from anyone not named Anthony Videtto will decide how many wins UMass is able to get at Navy on Saturday and Sunday.

Due to weather, it is still unsure if the double-header will be played on Saturday or Sunday, but the first pitch will likely be thrown at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Terwilliger Brothers Field at Max Bishop Stadium.

Joseph Aliberti can be reached via email at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @JosephAliberti1.