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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Baseball’s Back

With the weather gradually becoming warmer, there is a feeling of baseball in the air. Spring break is around the corner and the UMass Boston baseball is heading to Florida for a little sun and a lot of baseball. During an interview with coach Mark Bettencourt of the UMass Beacons baseball team, he talked about his team and the upcoming season with a voice that had both confidence and optimism.

Dan: What is the baseball program like here at UMass?

Coach Bettencourt: We’ve spent the last three years preparing for this season. The history of the school had been that kids come in play for a year or two and leave. So one problem that we always had in competing in the conference we play in is that we had freshmen and sophomores playing against juniors and seniors.

Dan: With such a high level of attrition and players leaving after one year, was UMass performing the function of a junior college or prep school, giving young players a chance to develop for better college teams?

Bettencourt: That was some of it but a lot of it was that the baseball program was not very structured. Kids came in and did what they wanted in a very loose atmosphere; many of these players simply lost interest. There was no continuity. Fall baseball was in effect optional; they had no strength-conditioning program when I first got here. We’ve spent the past three years recruiting, making this place where players would want to play. And we have done that, now we have eight seniors, five of which are fourth year seniors.

Dan: Is that the nucleus of the team, those seniors?

Bettencourt: The absolute nucleus of the team. Those five seniors walked through the doors in my first year, all walk-in freshmen. So myself and those players watched a program develop from absolute shambles. We were basically starting from scratch. All we had was a vision of what this program could be like, and this group of senior has seen it from the ground up. The one thing that we can say this year is that this is an experience baseball team. When I came there was one player that had played four years here.

Dan: How about your record?

Bettencourt: We finished 5-9 in the league last year. When I first came here, we played teams like Southern Maine and Eastern Connecticut State and lost 33-0 and never be involved in the games. Last year we lost games 5-3, 4-1 and we are starting to sweep Little East conference teams. We swept Rhode Island College and Western Connecticut State last year. We are starting to work our way into the middle of the pack. This year should be the year that we break through into that top tier.

Dan: So you are optimistic concerning this spring?

Bettencourt: We are not going to finish first or second, Southern Maine and Eastern Connecticut state combine for, I think, six national championships. This is the toughest baseball conference in the country, no question. Those two teams are ranked seventh and eighth in the nation.

Dan: Getting down to brass tacks, how is the pitching?

Bettencourt: We play five sometimes six games a week and I would say that we know who our six starting pitchers are. One problem we have is that we only have one left-handed pitcher. We have three guys with a boatload of experience that are not going to be nervous when the game is on the line. Seith Badard who has been clocked in the eighties and nineties is getting some looks from major league scouts.

Dan: How is the hitting looking?

Bettencourt: Last year, that was our strong point, we have some major power hitters on our roster. Adam Waxman our first baseman he is a 6’5 225lb. monster. He broke the school record for home runs last year, big RBI guy, he hits right in the middle of the lineup in the four spot. Our catcher, second team all-conference Rob Young, is another power guy those guys can knock a lot of runs in.

Dan: Who is batting lead off?

Bettencourt: We have a bunch of guys fighting for the lead off spot. Jim McDonough and Mike McGonagle, both of them fly. Jim McDonough could be one of the fastest kids I have ever seen.

Dan: Wrapping this up, any rookies you think will step it up this year?

Bettencourt: Off the top of my head, I would say Brad Tardugno. He is a right-handed pitcher but he is a very strong left-handed hitter. Other first year guys to keep an eye on Jon Tekela, Matt Ahl, he’s the only lefty, and Mike DiLalla; he should be a weekday starter.

Dan: Predictions for the season?

Bettencourt: This year it’s 20 (wins) or bust. Last year, we tied for sixth in the conference. We are not going to be cocky; we are going to beat that by one. It would be amazing if we could come in third or fourth.