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Kevin Lachance: An elite team player

Kevin LaChance

Even though Kevin Lachance is in the top 20 in the nation with a .430 batting average and also leads the America East Conference in hits (37), runs (25), stolen bases (12) and is tied for second in home runs (4), he says the best part of his game is “being a good teammate, just trying to help the team win.”

That’s the kind of guy he is. He’s always humble and while he’s been the star of the UMBC Baseball team this year, he will be the first to deflect his personal success to congratulate the team for a victory.

UMBC’s baseball program has seen a resurgence the past two years. Last year the team finished as the runner up in the America East Conference, just their second winning seasons since joining the league in 2003-2004. This year they are near the top of the standings again through two conference series, just half a game back.

Lachance has been one of those foundation pieces to the team’s rebuild and with him in the lineup opposing pitchers have to pitch to the other guys in the lineup differently.

Not only is Lachance a threat to get a hit, but he has great speed that makes him a threat to steal every time he is on base, and he can go from first base to home on a routine hit to the outfield by one of his teammates.

“He knows he’s a good player and he can go up there and relax and get a good pitch and get good swings on it and when that happens good things happen,” head coach Bob Mumma said.

For Lachance, he said the key to his success is “just trying not to focus on it as much as possible…staying relaxed as the place and just trying to have a productive at-bat…and I know if I do that everything will work out.”

Of course, twice in that statement he went on a slight tangent of how he is just trying to help his team win games. The only stat that matters to him are team wins. He couldn’t care less about how many hits he has, or steals. If it doesn’t lead to a win, he views it as a wasted effort.

“I always tell people ‘you don’t have to tell anyone who the leaders are, people know who the leaders are,’” Mumma said. “Kevin’s actions, he’s a great leader. He does a great job and one of the reasons we have success is all of the upperclassmen care about winning and care about the team. He’s been outstanding in that area.”

And his approach this season has been very beneficial to his success.

Last year, Lachance started off poorly. It took over two months for him to get going and he saw his batting average dip down to just .147 in mid-April after back-to-back 0-for-4 games at Stony Brook in a double-header on April 11.

The next day, however, Lachance went 2-for-3, and that seemed to spark his run at the end of the season.

Lachance had only 14 hits on the season up until that point. He got 40 over the next 28 games batting .360 in that span, which also saw the Retrievers go on a 13-game winning-streak. It was a battle, but by the end of the season he got his batting average up to .270, which was only 10th on the team.

Kevin Lachance had a rough start to the year last year, but this year he's started off on on a hot streak and is proving to be one of the best hitters in the country.

Kevin Lachance had a rough start to the year last year, but this year he’s started off on on a hot streak and is proving to be one of the best hitters in the country.

Not this year.

Lachance hit his way onto base in the first 18 games of the season and through March he has already 37 hits, he’s proven to be one of the best hitters in the region and certainly in the conference, and pro scouts have steadily been coming out to see him play.

“What we’re seeing is a byproduct of Kevin’s work ethic since day one as a freshman,” Mumma said. “He’s had 500 college at-bats between his freshman year and in the summer and fall. You’re seeing a byproduct of somebody who is comfortable at the plate and knows who he is as a player.

“He’s seen everything. He’s seen great pitching. He’s seen okay pitching. There is nothing that surprises him. He’s strong. He’s fast. He can just go up there and relax.”

And hitting may not even be the best part of his game. Despite his struggles hitting last year, Lachance was a guarantee to appear in the lineup because of his defensive ability at shortstop. The fact that he is a great offensive threat is gravy, because typically shortstop is a position where teams will sacrifice offense to have a defensive stopper up the middle.

“To have a guy that can hit at a high level, run the bases and do the things Kevin can do is huge because no you have a great bat who also plays outstanding defense,” Mumma said. “It’s a huge plus for the program.”

What’s benefited Lachance the most on the defensive side is that he’s played shortstop since a very young age. Typically in baseball, even at the college level, coaches move guys all around the field to figure out where they are best at, even if they were recruited to play at a certain position.

Lachance, who has been told by his parents that he was hitting a ball of a tee when he was two-years-old, played shortstop as soon as they assigned positions and coaches didn’t have to constantly move kids around.

His speed and quickness have made him a natural for shortstop, but with his wealth of experience playing the position, scooping up a ground ball and flinging it over to the second baseman is just second nature to him now.

But while defense has always been his strength. He admits he was “a little bit of a late bloomer in terms of offensive ability and being able to hit the ball.”

In high school, Lachance got some offers from colleges to play, but there were not necessarily pouring in like some prospects. And when UMBC came knocking at his door, he took a visit, spoke with the coaches and “everything felt right.”

Mumma remembers exactly when he first saw Lachance. He was playing with the Stars organization at a high school field where the grass was six-inches high, making it almost impossible to evaluate his defense since the ball couldn’t even roll through the infield. But Mumma remembers the exact at-bat Lachance had that opened his eyes to him.

“I remember seeing him with a wooden bat and he got an inside pitch and he stayed inside the ball really well and hit it over the outfielder’s head,” Mumma said. “I was very impressed and thought this kid had a chance to be a really good player. We knew he was fast, his coach said he catches everything and throws everything on the chest. All those things combined sold us on him. He was a guy we targeted him early and we were fortunate to get him.”

And Mumma said Lachance really came in on blind faith that the team would be good. The team had not had a winning season since Lachance was in third grade and still in the early stages of playing little league in his hometown of Clifton, Va.

The program with a strong tradition of winning and regularly seeing players get drafted had fell on hard times after their move into the America East Conference. The four years Lachance was playing in high school, UMBC only totaled 38 wins. But for Lachance, that created an interesting opportunity.

“It was appealing, the challenge of coming in around the same time as the new coaching staff and coming together and by combining forces to turnaround a program that was good in the past, but had fallen on tough times,” Lachance said. “That was a challenge I accepted and looked forward to coming in.”

Now, UMBC appears to be on the cusp of completing that turnaround and returning to the NCAA tournament with another winning record and potentially a second-straight 30-win season. And it has been largely because of Lachance and his all-around ability, roaming around on the diamond, running the bases, and hitting a baseball harder than a lot of people.

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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