Baseball team returns to conference play at home against Memphis

UConn outfielder Blake Davey takes a swing in the Huskies' game against East Carolina at J.O. Christian Field earlier this month. Dave is tied for second on the team with 31 RBI this season. (Brad Watson/The Daily Campus)

Coming off of two dominating midweek performances, the UConn baseball team returns to conference play with a weekend home series against Memphis.

The Huskies pounded out a total of 36 hits and five home runs in their wins over UMass and UMass-Lowell, outscoring their opponents 30-2. With their offense firing on all cylinders, UConn (27-15 , 6-6 the American) looks to carry over their success at the plate against the Tigers and get their first home series win.

“We got the bats going a bit, just hope they can stay hot through the weekend,” head coach Jim Penders said. “We’re going to have a much tougher test in facing the staff that we’re going to face this weekend.”

At the plate, Memphis is very similar to East Carolina, who took two of three games at J.O. Christian Field last weekend. The Tigers (27-12, 7-5 the American) do a good job at putting balls in play while not striking, as evidenced by their .289 team batting average, fourth in the American, and are tied with the Pirates for the lowest total amount of strikeouts with 220.

“We’re going to have to challenge these hitters,” Penders said. “You have to be open to the concept of pitching inside, too. It’s a little bit harder to flick stuff to the opposite field if it’s late in counts if you’re pounding the ball in on guys.”

Leading the way for the Tigers at the plate is Tucker Tubbs, who leads the team with a .354 batting average, and is second in the conference in slugging percentage (.694), home runs (12), and RBI (40). Tubbs’ ability to change the game with one swing makes him one of the most feared hitters in the conference, but Penders believes his pitchers will be up to the task.

“We have to go into the weekend with the approach that we have to go to our strengths. If our strengths are his strengths, I’ll still bet on us,” Penders said.

As usual, senior ace Carson Cross will start on the mound Friday for the Huskies. The Exeter, New Hampshire native ranks sixth nationally with 85 strikeouts and leads the American with 70.2 innings pitched.

Saturday, lefthander Anthony Kay will take the ball, fresh off of accepting an invite to the United States Collegiate National Team. Kay is one of 24 non-draft eligible college players donning the red, white, and blue that will play at least 17 international games starting in June. This season, Kay leads the conference with a 1.29 ERA and a .189 batting average against in 70 innings pitched.

Jordan Tabakman will start the final game of the series. After a rough outing last Sunday against East Carolina in which he walked four and allowed three earned runs, Tabakman looks to return to form and record his first win since March 22 against Seton Hall.

First pitch for Friday’s game is at 3 p.m., followed by a 1 p.m. start Saturday and a noon start Sunday. All three games can be heard on WHUS 91.7 FM.