North Adams, MA- Hoping to improve on last season's eighth place regular season MASCAC finish, the 2017 MCLA Baseball campaign kicks off this Saturday in Sanford, Florida as they take on Oneonta State in an afternoon doubleheader.
The Trailblazer's roster has endured quite an overhaul from a year ago as 2nd year Head Coach Mike Gladu and his staff have brought in 14 freshman and 6 transfers. "We lost a third of our roster from last year so they needed to be replaced and we needed to add depth; so depth has been added" said Gladu. Despite so many new faces intent on making their mark and challenging many returners for playing time, Coach Gladu has been very pleased with how this group has meshed together so far, "The attitude and chemistry on the team has been great from day one and it's a very hard working bunch."
While this year's squad features many new, young and talented faces, it will also include several key returners whose performance on the field and leadership off of it will prove vital if a successful season is in the cards for MCLA. Though picked to finish 8th again in the MASCAC after a tough 2016 season which saw the Trailblazers finish 4-25 overall and go winless in the conference, there is much optimism surrounding this group. "One of the goals the players set for this season was to make the conference play-offs, so that's my goal too." said Gladu. Here's the outlook for the 2017 Trailblazers ahead of opening day:
Off the mound:
The Trailblazers will start this season with 12 pitchers on the roster which in addition to providing much needed depth will also allow for more situational flexibility and in game decisions to take place that simply weren't an option for Coach Gladu a year ago.
At the top of the rotation which features 4 righties, will be returning junior captain Liam Nolan (Pittsfield, MA / Taconic) who made 7 starts last season with an ERA of 5.13 and offensively also led the Trailblazers with 3 homeruns and 21 RBI's. Following Nolan will be sophomore Brendan Kelly (Averill Park, NY. / Averill Park) who made 5 starts last season going 1-3 with 16 K's. Rounding out the rotation will be a pair of transfers; sophomore Schuyler Robinson (North Adams, MA / Drury) and junior Joe Murray (Cairo, NY / Cairo-Durham) who is also a captain of the Men's Basketball team.
Senior captain Eamonn Andre (Fairhaven, MA / Fairhaven) who led the staff with 19 appearances a year ago is again expected to be a steadying force out of the bullpen. He will be joined there by lefty junior Bobby New (Pittsfield, MA / Pittsfield) a transfer from Berkshire Community College , closer Austin Miller (Florida, MA / McCann) a right-handed freshman who last year was a 1st Team All-Western Massachusetts selection, as well as a stable of promising young arms.
Around the infield:
Added depth in the Trailblazer infield should also be very evident this season. Returning juniors Billy Pulasky (Pittsfield,MA / Greylock) who led MCLA in batting last season with a .333 average and Brett Labonte (Wareham,MA / Wareham) are both slated to spit time at DH and first base while junior Andrew Casteel (Fairhaven, MA / Fairhaven) who made 20 starts last season for the Trailblazers, freshman Christian Seariac (Framingham, MA / Framingham) who should also see time in the outfield and junior transfer Joe Buonemani (Peoria, AZ / Peoria) could all see time at third base.
Though sophomore Joe DiMassimo (Dalton, MA. / Waconah) who saw action in 23 games a year ago is slated as the starting second baseman, his partner in the middle of the infield has yet to be determined as two freshmen, Schamal Forbes (Nassau, Bahamas / St. Ann's) and Logan Rumbolt (North Adams, MA / Drury) are vying for the starting shortstop position.
Junior captain Nick Disanti (Pittsfield, MA / Mount Greylock) and sophomore Antonio Archina (Colonie, NY. / Colonie Central) are expected to split time behind the plate. Both saw significant action a year ago and that experience should prove crucial catching what is by and large a very new and young pitching staff.
Around the outfield:
While depth is also prevalent in the outfield, for now those three spots have been claimed. In left it will be freshman Joe Toledo (Brooklyn, NY / James Madison) who Coach Gladu describes as "gritty, aggressive and plays with reckless abandon." Sophomore Jonathan Parker (Albany, NY / Watervliet) "a five tool player" according to Gladu, will man centerfield while patrolling right will be senior Myles Candelet (Pittsfield, MA / Taconic) who played in 22 games last season batting .304 while also leading the team in walks (8) and stolen bases (4).
Freshman outfielders Benny Durland (Paxton, MA / Wachusett) and Darrien Luckett (Charlotte, NC / Mallard Creek) should also see action in the outfield and both possess tremendous speed off the bench which Coach Gladu expects to often utilize.
This year's season opens with a week-long trip to Central Florida that will see the Trailblazers play 9 games including 4 double-headers. With games in Sanford, Winter Haven, Auburndale and Lakeland MCLA will be challenged by both regional foes (including Oneonta State for two on 3/11, Plattsburgh State on 3/13 and Colby-Sawyer for a doubleheader on 3/16) as well as two Midwest squads (Olivet College of Michigan for a doubleheader on 3/12 and Central College of Iowa in a twin bill which wraps up the Florida swing on St. Patrick's Day).
Upon its return, MCLA travels north to Henniker, New Hampshire for a midweek doubleheader to face host New England College on 3/29 before returning to North Adams to begin a 25 game April and more notably, its MASCAC and home opener against defending conference champion Salem State for a doubleheader on 4/1. After hosting Norwich the following day for a pair, the Trailblazers will only host once vs. local foe Southern Vermont on 4/11 during a two week stretch in which they play 7 out of 8 contests on the road.
After returning home to face MASCAC rival Massachusetts Maritime on 4/17 and nonconference opponent Lasell on 4/19 (both doubleheaders), the Trailblazers again hit the road for 6 straight before returning home for its last MASCAC regular season doubleheader against Worcester State on 4/29. Following their regular season finale under the lights against Williams at Joe Wolfe Field in North Adams on 5/2, the MASCAC Conference Tournament will be open on Thursday, May 4th.