NORTH ADAMS >> The MCLA baseball team is pretty happy to be in Florida.
"Playing in a gym in the northeast for six weeks," said head coach Mike Gladu, "we're as ready as we can be."
Gladu and the Trailblazers are in Florida and open their southern schedule today against SUNY Poly, on a 10-day road trip. MCLA comes into the season as the No. 7 team in the MASCAC preseason poll.
"I use it as a good thing. I said a week ago, if I could predict the future, I'd be Nostradamus. I'd be a wealthy guy and play the lottery every night.
"I don't put a lot of weight in those predictions."
Defending champion Salem State is the preseason No. 1 pick with 49 points and seven first-place votes. Westfield State is second with 35 points, while Mass. Maritime and Worcester State are tied for third with 34 points. Mass. Maritime, with former Hoosac Valley pitcher Justin Nichols in the rotation, got the other first-place vote.
"I said 'This is where they think you're going to end up. It's up to you guys, I'm going to put you out there, it's up to you guys to perform,'" said Gladu, "and show them that's not where we're going to end up."
The Trailblazers will be playing their first game while Poly was 4-3 going into Thursday's action.
Gladu replaced Jeff Puleri, who gave up his coaching job and took on more administrative duties in the MCLA athletic department. Gladu came to MCLA after a tenure as pitching coach at Williams College. He joined the staff there in 2010.
Gladu is a former Hoosac Valley baseball player, and has a hefty Berkshire County contingent on his team. Of the 21 players on the preseason roster, 13 of them are from Berkshire County. That includes three players each from Taconic and Mount Greylock, two from St. Joseph and Drury, and one each from Wahconah, Hoosac and McCann Tech.
"I know a lot of them. I also know that historically over the last few years, there have been a lot of kids from Berkshire County on this roster — a lot of good players," he said. "They know each other, which kind of helps with the blend of getting to know each other as teammates.
"I think that blend works well together. In the long run, I think it's good for the program."
Everything starts on the mound, and for MCLA, it all starts with sophomore right-hander Liam Nolan. The former Taconic standout appeared in nine games last year, started four and had a 2.17 earned run average. He went 2-3 with two saves and a complete game.
The rest of the rotation will continue with left-hander Todd Hunt, right-hander Robert Jutras and freshman righty Brendan Kelly. Hunt and Jutras are seniors.
"The rotation sets up pretty good in Florida. Everyone will have two starts," said Gladu. "We'll go from there when we get back."
The Trailblazers graduated their top four hitters from last year's team, including Tyler Benoit and Rory Slattery, who had the only home runs.
Jutras and Nolan will likely split time at first base, Nate Gutmann is at second with Ryan Shook at third and Andrew Casteel. Nick DeSanti is the opening day catcher with Myles Candelet in left field, Nate Alibozek in center and Billy Pulasky in right. All but Casteel are from Berkshire County.
"I don't know if we'll have a lot of power, but we'll have a lot of guys who can grind out at-bats. In Division III baseball, if you can grind out at-bats, you're going to get on base," said the coach. "For me, it's going to be a lot of small ball. We do have some power, but we're going to get on base more by brains then braun."
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.