By Taylor Viles & Karissa Gaughan – Sports Editor and 1851 Contributor
Building a collegiate team while keeping conference championship hopes in mind is hard in a normal year. With the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to COVID-19, head coaches were required to plan with unpredictability all but guaranteed.
Coming into the 2021 baseball season, Manager Bill Uberti was already anticipating a larger-than-normal senior class. Twelve student-athletes are set to graduate with their Bachelor’s in mid-May, but five more are also on the roster pursuing their Graduate degree. This means on top of successfully coordinating a near-impossible schedule for this spring, Uberti has been responsible for filling the 17 roster spots available next season.
Director of Athletics Kristy Walter has been with Lasell since 1992 and is the only individual in program history to hold that position. When asked if she had ever seen a team lose so many players in an offseason, she said, “not to my knowledge, no. Not 17.”
Although the number of players leaving is large, the high caliber of play those athletes possess has helped the underclassmen grow on the team. “We do have a big freshman class here, looking up to them,” said the second-year manager. “[The group of seniors and grad students] are the heart and soul of this program right now.” This should translate into the current first-year students doing the same for the incoming class.
Uberti says the term “rebuilding” isn’t one he’d use looking to next season. “We are going to be young,” he admitted. As of now, the team will only roster two seniors and soon the number of younger players will overshadow the upperclassmen. “Right now we have 11 pitchers committed [with more to come]. We pretty much have every single position covered with guys coming in that we’re excited about. We think they can make an impact right away and hit the ground running as freshmen,” Uberti said.
According to junior first baseman/pitcher Matt Motyka, the same is true about this season’s first-year class. “The freshmen have already started stepping up,” he said. First-year students Darek Lallo and CJ Mills were honored in back-to-back weeks as the “Pitchers of the Week” for the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC), recently. “To see them dominant right now as freshman, I can’t wait to see what they do with the offseason training,” said Motyka.
Current players have begun to have conversations with the coaching staff on executing their extra year of eligibility for next season, but with the number of students joining the team in the fall, this may not be possible for everyone. “Looking at our roster, we have to make sure we have room for them,” said Uberti. “Even if they did want to come back, some of them, just to be perfectly honest with you, are not going to be invited back. [They’re] great kids and obviously big-time contributors to the program, but it is what it is. With our situation, we want to have a younger team.”
Aside from the few who could return for their graduate season, this group of 17 sits only a few games away from their final one as Lasers. It’s a group that has mostly been together for four or five seasons, respectively. “We’ve got to the point where it’s like we love each other so much as a group,” said senior Co-Captain Harrison Silva. He also said this is part of the team’s downfall. Because of the strong love, the team sometimes forgets to compete at the level they need to be at. “Right now, I just feel like we’re applauding and trying to root for each other rather than compete against each other.” This mentality would challenge every player on the team to compete harder and it would result in better play, according to Silva.
Graduate student and Co-Captain Joe Sullivan acknowledged how in recent history, come playoff time, the team’s overall play hasn’t been impressive. With the 17 about to graduate, the motivation to win is apparent. “It’s a much stronger group goal,” he said. “We have been here for five years now and we always lose in the conference semifinals. So we’re all hungry for sure.”
The team currently sits fifth in the GNAC with a 7-5 record. The GNAC tournament begins on May 4.