The Online Beacon

The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

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A New Era: A Preview of the 2024 MCLA Baseball Season

MCLA Athletics

As the snow starts to melt away and temperatures start to rise here in the Berkshires, it can only mean that Trailblazer baseball is back in action. The team enters the 2024 season coming off a 10-28 record, and is poised for a major comeback season as they begin working toward a potential MASCAC championship.

“I think we’re ready,” said pitcher and captain Nate Morse ‘24. “This is my fourth year here and I think this is one of the hardest working groups we’ve had. It’s been awesome to see the buildup over the past couple of years; two years ago we lost a lot of games and we lost by a lot of runs, last year we were so close as we missed the playoffs by a couple of games with a lot of last inning walk-off games, and I think that this year we’re ready to get over that hump and become that playoff team.”

2024 also marks a new era in Trailblazer baseball, as the team will be playing the season without MASCAC Player of the Year Austin Rachiele and All-MASCAC First Team member Randy Adams due to graduation. The pair served as top-of-the-lineup bats and team captains during their time at MCLA, but as one door closes, another one opens.

The team now features Morse and returning pitcher Bryan Rosario ‘24 as team captains, with other key players such as utility player Jayco Peña ‘24, pitcher and shortstop Rob Correia ‘24, and pitcher Isiah Tucker ‘24 serving huge roles as leaders both on and off the field. 

For middle infielder Jacob Morren ‘27, their impact has helped him make an easier transition from high school to the NCAA level, and serve as great mentors for anything baseball or life-related.

“They’ve been huge for us,” said middle infielder Jacob Morren ‘27. “Every single one of those guys are great guys both on and off the field and are great to talk to personally and are a good support system. If one of us messes up, they are one of the guys who are happy to pull you off to the side and be like ‘Let’s go over this, what were you thinking? What can we do to make this better?’ And they’re truly really personable guys.”

Preparation for the team began all the way back in September, in which the team participated in their fall season and has continued to put in work over the last few weeks since returning for the current semester. Team lifts, batting practice and bullpen sessions, team practices, and conditioning work were all a part of the everyday norms to get better both as individual players and as a collective group.

For Peña, the focus on the smaller details and players using their own time to get better is what will be key to building a successful foundation throughout the duration of the season.

“We just focused on the little things, making the routine play and pitchers throwing strikes,” he said. “We definitely have a lot more guys working out when practice times aren’t going on, with guys as a group going to hit, pitchers throwing, guys fielding, so I think overall this year the team looks more committed when it comes to putting in the extra work and it shows.” 

Additionally, a new and improved emphasis has been put on the pitching side for preparing for the season and being able to keep arms fresh throughout the entirety of a season. For Morse, it has been one of the areas in which why the team has not been as successful in recent years, and with the change in mindset, can unlock new potential for players and serve as a strength against other opponents.

“This has been the best program we’ve had for pitchers since I’ve been here,” he said. “We really developed a program, we stuck to it and every guy has bought in. We’ve been getting our stuff done in going to the gym, getting our post-care stuff in, conditioning, and all of that. 

“The past couple of years, pitchers have kind of had the easier job, and I feel like we’re one of the hardest working groups on the team, and I think that’s going to pay off,” he continued.

In addition to work being put on the field, there also is an emphasis on putting in that same work off the field to create team chemistry, like activities such as hanging out in the townhouses and sharing meals. Working to become closer and to know each other have allowed the team to work as one collective unit during practices, and hope it will transition over to games as well.

“We all have different personalities, but it all works,” said Peña. “Everybody brings their own personality to the table and we all just hang out together whether it’s just going to grab some food, we threw a big ping pong tournament where we had a good percentage of the team there that could make it, and we just love spending time together because that’s key to success to building team chemistry.”

While the team lost seven players from last season, 13 new faces have been brought to the program. Transfer players including third baseman and pitcher, Josh Bissallion ‘25, outfielder Ed Galan ‘25, and first baseman Chris Vargas ‘25, along with first-year players including Morren and catcher Henry Blake ‘27 have had outstanding fall seasons and are slotted to serve as key players right off the bat. In addition, returning players including utility player Billy Walsh ‘25 and pitchers Matt Belfance ‘25, Aiden Brett ‘25, and Jaden Palumbo ‘26 will look to take major steps in their development and contribute heavily towards the team’s success.

The departure of players such as Rachiele and Adams from the program puts good pressure on the rest of the team to step up and improve their abilities so that the team as a whole can improve.

“From the jump, I had to realize that nobody can be [Rachiele and Adams] and we’re not going to be able to have two guys come in and replace those two types of players,” said Morse. “I’ve been preaching since the beginning that if everyone can take a step up from last year and everyone can have a better season than last year, in a way you kind of recreate that type of production, but if everyone stays the same, you’re not going to get better, so it’s going to take all 32 of us and we’re going to have to work hard, we’ve got to take it pitch by pitch, game by game, and if everyone can improve, then the team improves.”

As the team begins playing in games, the offensive production, defensive work, and pitching command by the staff will serve as major strengths early on. Additionally, the team looks to continue working on situational plays and an overall understanding of what needs to be done both on the offensive and defensive end.

“I think the strengths for us are definitely going to be hitting, we’re going to come out firing, and I know our pitchers have done a really great job working and commanding their pitches, so I think our pitching is going to be really great, and I think our defense is going to be really solid,” said Morren. “I think just something we can continue to work on throughout the season is knowing what to do in situational plays. There were a few plays we’ve gone over where there is a lot going on and it’s a lot to process in a quick four seconds, but I know we’re going to get there, it’s just we need to have everyone be aggressive and want the ball, and that will definitely get us through.”

The ultimate goal for this team is to win the coveted MASCAC championship, but to get there, the players have worked to create small goals to get to the main picture, taking each game “step by step,” and working to be prepared for any situation that can happen. With that mindset, players hope that the smaller details will help lead them to where they want to go.

“If we’re going to get over that hump this year, we have to take the baby steps,” said Morse. “There were moments last year where we were in big moments and close ballgames where we had to make a play or make a pitch and we just folded at the last second, and maybe it was because we weren’t mature enough or maybe we weren’t setting those goals of being prepared for those moments, and I think this year, if we take it game by game and we’re prepared for that moment and know what to expect and know what’s coming, then by the end of the season we’ll have enough wins to get a playoff bid.”

With the Trailblazers collecting a doubleheader sweep against Yeshiva University on Sunday, February 25, the team currently stands at 2-0 and is on the right trajectory to meet their goals. The team will resume their season when they travel down for their annual Florida trip during spring break with a matchup against Martin Luther College on Friday, March 8. 

For the fans, the message of what they should be looking out for is short but sweet.

“Keep watching,” said Peña.


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Owen Brown, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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