Amidst a rocky start to the Bryant Bulldogs’ baseball season, there have been promising glimpses from a number of players. Perhaps the most impressive this season has been sophomore center fielder Matt Albanese.
A product of Xavier High School in Middletown, CT, Albanese was heavily recruited by a number of D-I schools, but many wanted the versatile athlete for his pitching.
“I didn’t want to be just a pitcher only,” said Albanese, “and I made that clear to those recruiting me.”
When making his final decision between UConn and Bryant, Albanese chose to come to Smithfield for both the tight knit Bryant community and to play baseball under Head Coach Steve Owens.
“Coach Owens is one of the best coaches around and always knows how to win.”
So far, it is safe to say that Bryant has been a good fit for the 6-foot-2 outfielder. In his freshman season this past spring, Albanese racked up a number of accolades after batting .322 with 22 extra base hits in 55 starts. He was named NEC Rookie of the Year, New England Rookie of the Year, and perhaps most impressively, was named to the Louisville Slugger Freshmen All-American team.
Albanese took his talents down south to improve his game over the summer and become a more complete player. As a member of the Aldie Senators in Virginia’s Valley Baseball League, an NCAA sanctioned summer league that has produced MLB talents such as former Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell, he batted over .300 yet again. He also trained physically to become a better athlete.
“I worked a lot to take my hitting to the next level and trained hard to get bigger, faster, and stronger.”
After a long winter, Albanese has picked up right where he left off last season and has already earned his first league honor just 13 games into the season. In a 16-4 win against Towson on March 8th, he became the first Bryant player in D-I history to hit for the cycle. During that weekend series, he went 8-13 with five RBI and six runs scored. These stats were good enough for him to be named the NEC Player of the Week.
A humbled Albanese recognized that hitting for the cycle is something special, but it wasn’t what was on his mind.
“The goal is to win the game and that’s what my teammates and I were focused on.”
On the early season, wins have been tough to come by for Bryant (2-11) despite Albanese’s strong start. He leads the team with a .345 average, 11 RBI, and 15 runs scored, but that doesn’t mean anything to him if the team isn’t winning.
When asked what the team needs to improve on, Albanese recognized the high level of talent on the team and their potential for another strong season.
“We have an immense amount of talent, but right now we are beating ourselves by making a lot of small mistakes that add up. We have shown great energy and focus in practice recently, and I am confident that we are going to get it together and have another special season as a program.”
Albanese and the Bulldogs are set to host Hartford at Conaty Park this weekend in what would be their first home games of the season. Five games have been cancelled since the team’s busy spring break and it is clear that they have been using the additional time wisely in practice.
On Saturday, Bryant and Hartford will play a doubleheader with games set for noon and 3:00, while Sunday’s game is scheduled for 1:00.