By Taylor Viles – 1851 Staff
Lasell prepares for a tough test with many new faces
Spring is just around the corner and with it, 30 guys, as well as countless fans of the blue and white, are itching to take those steps back onto the diamond to take part in America’s Pastime.
“There’s no feeling like before the season [starts]…thinking ‘how good could we be?’” said newly hired coach and Lasell alum Billy Uberti (‘14). “I’m just looking forward to it all.” Uberti is excited to begin his coaching tenure at Lasell after having lent his expertise to other programs since his college graduation. “Coaching your alma mater is different from coaching anywhere else,” he said. “There’s a fire that has been in me since I played here because…we’ve never won a GNAC championship.”
Playing under former Lasell head coach Greg Harjula for four years and then three more as an assistant coach, Uberti understands the culture of the team as well as what to do differently than his predecessor. “We’re really good friends,” Uberti said of Harjula.
After the conclusion of last season, no one knew exactly where the Lasers were headed. Senior Day at their home field at Brandeis University celebrated an exceptional 10 graduates, Coach Harjula announced he was stepping down with no replacement imminent, and the team lost yet again in the playoffs failing to make it to the championship game. One of the best pieces that came out of the 2019 season was the Lasers ended with the most wins in their 11-year history for a final record of 23-17.
Then beginning with the hiring of Coach Uberti, the 2020 season began to look brighter. The underclassmen stepped up big in the offseason working on their game and building muscle, Newbury College closed prompting five transfer students to join the team, and a strong freshman class of six started college. Just like that, a team looking primed for a rebuilding year began to find their roster.
“This year’s team is a little more focused,” said senior catcher Joe Sullivan. “We’re really motivated… that stems down from Coach Uberti, he’s been awesome.” Sullivan, one of three captains on this team is one of those expected to carry the Lasers this year. “Joe… broke out last year,” said Uberti. “He wasn’t the starting catcher from day one [but he] got his opportunity and made the most of it.” In 33 games last season, Sullivan hit .354 and led the team with 29 RBI’s.
Junior infielder Mario Kiaunis had a “sneaky good year” as Sullivan put it, batting .367 in only 30 at-bats. He was a staple off the bench for the Lasers and Coach Uberti is ready to see him break out in a starting role this season. “The thing about Mario is he’s a really gritty player which I like,” said Uberti. “He’s someone who…hustles all over the field… he’s a spark plug.”
Another player Uberti talked about was the versatile sophomore, Matt Motyka. Coming into college, Motyka was a catcher and occasional pitcher. Last season, Harjula used him mostly as a first baseman and designated hitter. This season, Uberti plans to keep him at first for the most part. “Matt…hit two home runs in our fall game and crushes baseballs when he’s on time,” said Uberti. “We’re excited about him.”
“I’ve done a lot [of work] especially in the weight room,” said Motyka about his improvements since last season. “I’ve always been looked at as slow and unathletic so I really put my nose to the grindstone…to get to where I am now.” Uberti said he’s also excited to see what Motyka will contribute to the mound, something he hasn’t done in an in-season atmosphere since his senior year of high school. “He’s a sidewinder,” he said. “We’ll rely on him for some innings out of the pen.”
This season, the Lasers plan to show they are better than they may look on paper. “We’re expecting to be placed real low in the preseason rankings so we’re expecting people to overlook us,” said Motyka. “We know we can overcome that… we believe that there isn’t a better team than us in the GNAC.” The team is ready to win and Coach Uberti is ready to win. “I have very high expectations for the team,” he said. “They’re a hungry group… from day one, I’ve liked the attitude here… the team seems to be clicking on all cylinders.”
Lasell played its first and only game so far during a blustery afternoon in Lynn, Massachusetts on February 27 and beat a powerhouse competitor in Fisher College 7-6. After the victory, it only assures what they already know and what they are here to do. “We want to play on Sunday at GNAC weekend…and we want to win,” said Sullivan. “I’m sick of losing on Saturday.” That day is May 3, 2020, and if they can get there is all up to the tenacity they show over the next three months.
Coach Uberti has the same goal but knows this won’t come easy. “We’ve been checking every box so far but our record is still 0-0,” said Uberti, prior to opening day. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”