Saturday, September 13, 2014
Evan Delaney got a taste of playing on the baseball field at UMass during this spring’s high school postseason.
The Hopkins Academy star shortstop now intends on making Earl Lorden Field his collegiate home.
Delaney, who is set to begin his senior year of high school, announced Friday night on Twitter that he’s verbally committed to play at UMass, which is mere miles from his hometown of Hadley.
“It’s pretty much right in my back yard,” Delaney said. “Until recently, I figured I’d want to leave the area, leave Massachusetts and try something new. But after talking with my coaches and my parents, I feel really good about this decision.
“UMass seems like the best fit for me,” he added. “I made a list of pros and cons for each school. UMass had a bunch of pros and very few cons.”
As a junior, Delaney helped lead the Golden Hawks to the Western Massachusetts Division 4 championship and a berth in the state final. He spearheaded the offensive attack with a .588 average in six postseason contests.
“That run we had proved to me that western Mass. isn’t the end of where I could go in baseball,” Delaney said. “I received the confidence that I could take this farther.”
The Hawks won three consecutive playoff games at UMass. They edged Gateway 6-5 in the sectional semifinals, beat Turners Falls 5-2 for the WMass title, then earned an extra-inning 2-1 state semifinal victory over Oxford.
“That’s one of the best fields I’ve ever played on, so that was a small factor on my decision,” he said.
Over the entire season, Delaney batted an even .400 with an on-base percentage of .474, and slugged at a .560 clip. He scored 13 runs and drove in nine.
The other two schools he had narrowed it down to were Division 1 Long Island University-Brooklyn and Division 2 Southern New Hampshire.
But in the end, Delaney said UMass coach Mike Stone sealed the deal.
“Coach Stone took a great interest in me, and that’s so important,” Delaney said. “You want to play for a coach who’s just as excited as you are about being there.”
Stone is friends with Mike Donato, the assistant coach for Delaney’s AP (Advanced Performance) Royals 17U select college development team. After speaking to AP head coach Peter Fatse, Stone went to scout Delaney on a couple occasions.
A pair of positive meetings with Stone later, Delaney moved the Minutemen to the top of his list.
Delaney is the fourth member of the AP Royals to make a Division 1 commitment over the last few weeks. He’ll join Westfield left-handed pitcher Ken McLean at UMass.
Of the 17 players on the AP 17U roster, Delaney and Smith Academy’s David Longstreeth are the only to play for Division 4 high schools.
“I’ve been embracing this process as much as I can, and the AP team got me many of the looks from D1 schools,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to have the chance to go from high school D4 to college D1.”
In his final season at Hopkins, Delaney hopes to guide the Hawks on another long postseason run. And as an individual looking forward to his next challenge in the game, he seeks improvement in both his statistics and the finer points of the game.
“I’ve been thinking about college since I started on varsity in eighth grade,” he said. “Playing at the highest level I could in high school has helped me get better each season. That’s always been my goal, and it will be no different next year as a senior.”
Michael Wilkinson can be reached at email@example.com.