AMHERST -- Mike Geannelis' first year as a Division I college baseball player didn't start well. But it ended with him receiving a major award.
Geannelis, who was a pitcher and a designated hitter for the University of Massachusetts, was named the Atlantic 10 Conference's rookie of the year. That comes on the heels of his earning a pair of A-10 rookie-of-the-week honors.
"This has been a great year," said the freshman from Williamstown. "I was injured all fall [after] knee surgery. Coming back and playing like I've been playing has been great.
"They've given me a shot early and it's been great."
The Minutemen wrapped up their season with a doubleheader split at Saint Joseph's on Saturday. UMass needed to sweep the weekend series and then get some help in order to qualify for the Atlantic 10 Conference playoffs. UMass finished 15-31 and 12-15 in the conference. UMass started its year 3-19, but finished 12-12.
The Williamstown native finished the season with a .347 batting average, two home runs and 16 runs batted in.
Geannelis doesn't have enough at-bats to qualify for a place among the Atlantic 10 leaders. But if he was eligible, his .348 average would place him seventh in the league.
As a pitcher, the former Mount Greylock athlete finished 4-3 with a 4.85 ERA. He appeared in 14 games and started two in 56 1/3 innings. He was sixth on the team in ERA.
UMass head coach Mike Stone didn't get to see the freshman in the fall because Geannelis had suffered a preseason knee injury. But once Geannelis got into uniform, the coach in his 27th season at the UMass helm, discovered a quality player.
"We knew right off the bat when we saw him in January, because he didn't play with us in the fall because he was hurt, that he had good pop in his bat," said Stone. "It's carried over to games as well.
"Sometimes you never know. Somebody looks good in BP and it doesn't really carry over. It does with him."
Geannelis committed to UMass last summer after graduating from the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Before that, he spent time at Salisbury School, Proctor Academy and Mount Greylock -- where he was on a team that won a Western Mass. baseball title in 2009.
Last summer, Geannelis was a member of the Pittsfield Suns in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. He appeared in 15 games for manager Tom Conley and made three starts. In 41 innings of work, Geannelis had a 3.29 earned-run average and struck out 38.
This summer, Geannelis is penciled in to play for the Suns' rival Nashua Silver Knights.
He suffered a meniscus tear while doing off-season cross-fit training. He had surgery in September, and began the rehabilitation process.
"I knew it was good timing," he said. "The season is in the spring, so I had time to recover. The surgery wasn't anything like an ACL."
The injury didn't allow Geannelis time to work out with his UMass teammates during their fall season.
"During the fall, it was definitely tough to be injured and not be able to show what I could do," the former Mountie athlete said.
Geannelis said he didn't feel 100 percent until the end of April and beginning of May.
He said that since he didn't get to hit with the Suns last summer, he's truly enjoyed coming to the plate and swinging those composite bats.
Geannelis was first named Rookie of the Week on April 14, after pitching three shutout innings to get his first collegiate victory. In addition, he went 3 for 9 at the plate in two games.
He earned his most recent honor last week, notching a pair of wins against VCU, including 4 2/3 innings of shutout baseball in one of two wins against the Rams.
He also hit .625 in the three-game series.
Sweeney, who once managed the North Adams SteepleCats, has seen Geannelis do his job on the bump and at the dish. The lefty hitter has done enough to keep himself in the batting order and as a key part of the bullpen. Sweeney was asked if he was concerned that he might lose the right-hander to the offense.
"It is, but it isn't," Sweeney said with a laugh. "Mike has enough ability right now where he's being able to be successful on both sides of the ball.
"Both pitching-wise and offensively, he's contributed a significant amount for us this year -- especially taking into account that he's only a freshman."
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