Beacons Baseball Notebook

Ryan Thomas

When you’re as talented as Nick Conway, you don’t need your full arsenal working to be the best pitcher in the Little East. In his win against Western Connecticut State University last weekend, Conway had arguably his best start of the season.

The senior ace pitched seven strong innings, allowing a run in the first inning when a walk and a single manufactured the only run the Colonials would score.

Conway’s 11 strikeouts gave him 27 on the season in three starts, the most in the Little East Conference.

John Susi, Western Connecticut’s head coach, admitted in an email interview that with only his fastball working, Conway overpowered the Colonials hitters. “[Last] Sunday [Nick] did not have great command of his off-speed pitches, but had great command of the fastball, and [he] used it to beat most of our hitters.

“He put a little extra on those big pitches he needed, and it worked,” the fourth-year coach indicated. To go along with his league-leading 27 punch-outs, Conway has had pinpoint control thus far, only walking three batters in three starts.

“If we can start getting him to throw his curveball for more strikes, he’ll be even more dominant than he is now,” Beacons first-year assistant coach and pitching specialist Peter Nickerson explained. Conway has allowed only four extra-base hits this season.

“[Nick has] been great for us, and he’s only been throwing two pitches for strikes. If we can get his third pitch, his curveball – which I think is one of his best pitches – [working], the sky’s the limit for him.”

Mike Andriano only got one start while the team was in Arizona for spring break because of a team-sanctioned suspension. UMass Boston head coach Brendan Eygabroat would not indicate a reason, only saying it was for “a violation of team rules.”

In his sole start against Albertus Magnus College, Andriano lacked the control he had in 2007, when he walked only 17 in 62 innings. He walked five in five innings and gave up seven hits, but Eygabroat still feels confident about his sophomore starter.

“He’s in much, much better shape than he was last year,” Eygabroat explained. The 20-25 pounds Andriano lost in the off-season should help him stay strong and go deeper into ball games, he assured.

Nickerson was positive about Andriano bouncing back as well, especially after his second start of the season against Western Connecticut. In the game, the sophomore walked only one over five innings while racking up five K’s. “He’s getting to the point where he’s just getting back into pitching shape,” said Nickerson of his pitcher.

“For a kid who’s got a curveball where he can put it wherever he wants, he’s been having some trouble putting it where he wants it.”

Two of the biggest surprises for the Beacons this season have been two freshmen. Catcher Tim Fontaine has opened eyes with his offensive production, and Frank Yavorosky’s success out of the bullpen has been a welcome addition to a young, athletic pitching staff.

Touted as a defensive-minded catcher early on, Fontaine has “made himself 100 times better from the fall, in terms of his hitting,” Eygabroat declared. “[In Arizona], he hit the ball extremely hard in almost all of his at-bats, even the outs.” That performance has earned him more playing time.

Fontaine, who has split time with junior transfer catcher Eric Salvadore behind the plate and at designated hitter, leads the Beacons in base hits (20) and total bases (24), while hitting a robust .408 14 games in.

Eygabroat indicated that the freshman has “done a very good job” offensively and that “he’s one of the players who has stayed late, coming in at night to hit extra in the cage.”

Gavorosky, who has spent time working with Nickerson, has almost come out of nowhere. Nickerson acknowledged that “we didn’t really know what his role was gonna be in the winter, and all of the sudden, he comes in and he’s been one of the best pitchers we’ve had.”

In six appearances so far this season, Yavorosky’s 2.25 ERA is third best on the team and, even though his batting average against is .308, he’s been getting big outs for the Beacons.

Jake Chastain, the Beacons’ junior centerfielder has been hitting the ball with authority all season, but “things hadn’t been falling [for him],” according to Eygabroat.

“Now, he’s starting to get some of those line drives to find holes. That’s gonna be big for us to get his bat back on.” Chastain, in the last week of March, was 5-13 with two walks and two RBI’s in four games.

When Eygabroat talks about his shortstop, it sounds like he’s reminiscing about Ozzie Smith’s dazzling defense. “He’s… had some Web Gem diving plays, glove flips and up-the-middle double plays,” Eygabroat exclaimed.

Ryan Walsh, another freshman, has admittedly made some routine errors as well, but Eygabroat is happy with the progress he’s made and says that his offense, which was very good in the fall, is coming around as well, saying he “has had a much better approach at the plate.”

Even though the Beacons recently had a five-game winning streak snapped, Eygabroat likes what he sees from his team. “We’ve done a nice job since we’ve come back from Arizona to kind of live pitch by pitch, inning by inning, rather than looking ahead,” Eygabroat encouraged.

“We’re just playing the game, trying to have good innings, good at bats, throw strikes. The team’s done a really nice job of holding onto that.”