Since he was a young boy, Dan Mantoni has always been on the move. Not only has the Northbridge native found comfort in standing in the batter’s box as a hitter for the University of Massachusetts Boston baseball team, but the sophomore also has a second home on the mound, where he loves to strike batters out.
It’s been a natural transition for Mantoni, who shined in both roles throughout his childhood and for Hopedale High School and the Milford legion team. After hitting for the second highest average (.317) on the team at the plate and posting a 2-0 record on the mound last year as a freshman, Mantoni recognized how important his contributions are towards the Beacons’ success and anticipated a larger part in his sophomore season.
“I definitely expected to take on a larger role this year,” he said. “We graduated a lot of talented seniors from last year—both in the lineup and on the pitching staff—so I knew I was going to have to step up and help fill those roles to help the team be successful. Being named captain also gave me a much larger responsibility, and forced me to step up and take a leadership role on the team.”
Not many sophomores take over duties as a captain at the collegiate level, and Mantoni has flourished in the role. This season he has led the Beacons at the plate in batting with a .361 average, and leads the team in RBIs (33), runs (28) and hits (53).
What is most impressive about his success, however, is his ability to turn a switch and morph his focus into getting opposing batters out. Mantoni has become a catalyst in the UMass Boston rotation throughout his sophomore season, and holds a 4-1 record after making seven starts this year.
While his 3.16 ERA and 51.1 innings pitched both lead the team’s starters, Mantoni says the key to his success has always been his ability to focus on the task at hand.
“The only way to approach being both a hitter and a pitcher is to stay in the moment and focus on only one of them at a time,” said the sophomore. “If I start thinking about my next at-bat while out on the mound, I will be less likely to focus up and execute my pitches. It is not necessarily more difficult to manage both in college, but I definitely need to put in more work in practice and the weight room for each because the level of competition requires a much higher level of performance and execution in the games.”
Throughout his young career at UMass Boston, Mantoni has always found a way to help the team win. In the Beacons’ regular season finale against Western Connecticut State on Friday, the sophomore helped his team finish the regular season with a 22-13 record after going 2-for-4 with an RBI at the plate in a 9-0 win.
As easy as he makes it look, though, Mantoni said transitioning from high school to NCAA baseball has presented difficulties.
“There are challenges every day,” admitted Mantoni. “It is difficult to constantly flip a switch between academics and athletics and transitioning during the day from studies in a very intense and challenging major to taking a leadership role on the baseball team. The best way to approach it is to take it one step at a time. It is also important to realize that playing baseball here is a privilege, and if as a team we understand this and just go out and have fun and play, the better off we will be and the more enjoyable and successful the season will be.”
The Beacons’ hardest test is yet to come—the Little East Conference Tournament—though Mantoni and his UMass Boston teammates seem primed for a deep postseason run. Behind the contributions of the sophomore, the team won its last five regular season games and held a 9-1 record in the final 10 games.
Despite being such a big part of his team’s success, Mantoni said the Beacons’ future will rely on everybody coming together for a common goal.
“Lately, we have been on a hot stretch and the biggest reason for that is that we are staying together and really meshing as a team,” he said. “People are taking on their roles and prioritizing the team’s success over their own personal performance, which is critical in a statistically based sport like baseball in which it is easy to focus on yourself. Sticking together has been the biggest asset of this team, and if we continue to do this we will be a scary team in the LEC Tournament and beyond. Most importantly, our team motto that has linked us together is, ‘rollbeacs.’”
As long as Mantoni can maintain the success he had throughout the year, the Beacons can expect to roll on in both the LEC Tournament and—hopefully—deep into the NCAA Tournament.