Baseball: Slumping Huskies meet Columbia for weekend series

UConn baseball senior infielder Joe DeRoche-Duffin makes contact during the Huskies' game against Central Connecticut State at J.O. Christian Field in Storrs, Connecticut on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. (Tyler Benton/The Daily Campus)

The UConn baseball team (9-10) will look to bounce back from a disappointing loss to in-state rival Central Connecticut when they battle Columbia in a three-game series this weekend. The series will represent the Huskies’ final weekend of non-conference play.

On Wednesday afternoon at J.O. Christian Field, UConn fell to CCSU for the first time in eight contests between the two Connecticut rivals. The Blue Devils put plenty of runs on the scoreboard early, and kept the Huskies’ bats off-balance on their way to an 8-4 win.

UConn coach Jim Penders was not happy with the performance from starting pitcher Andrew Zapata, who was pegged for seven runs in 1.2 innings of work.

“We need a better start from out starting pitcher,” Penders said. “I expect more from Andrew, and he expects more from himself.”

The Huskies have now lost four straight games, and six of their last seven. When their bats do hit, it comes early in games, and the bullpen has struggled to hold these early leads at the end of the game. Last weekend in California, UConn blew two late leads to No. 21 UCSB as the home team pulled off a sweep.

“We’ve been struggling, and our offense has not looked in sync in a while,” Penders said after Wednesday’s setback. “I thought that Sunday was a low point, but maybe this is bottom. Hopefully this is bottom.”

UConn will get a chance to turn things around against the Columbia Lions this weekend with a game at Columbia’s Satow Stadium on Friday and a doubleheader in Storrs on Saturday. The Huskies and the Lions have only met once in their histories, a 12-2 UConn win in March 2002.

Columbia is 4-11 this season, although they did crush Army 13-3 on Wednesday. After beginning their season by splitting a four-game series against Jacksonville, the Lions lost nine straight to begin a road trip out West.

The Lions are hitting .257 as a team, with a .350 slugging percentage. Will Savage leads the team with a .386 batting average in 57 at-bats, while John Kinne leads the team with 12 runs batted in. Robb Paller and Kyle Bartelman are also crucial cogs in Columbia’s offense.

Penders said after Wednesday’s loss that he would start Anthony Kay, Tim Cate and Ronnie Rossomando on the mound this weekend, as he did last weekend against UCSB. Those three pitchers currently have earned run averages of 3.09, 0.54 and 3.00, respectively.

The Huskies will likely see pitchers Adam Cline and George Thanopoulos this weekend. Cline and Thanopoulos have made seven of the Lions’ 15 starts, and have combined for 1-6 record. Columbia’s pitching staff has an ERA of 7.13, and has given up 143 hits in 125.0 innings pitched.

UConn and Columbia will begin play on Friday at Columbia’s Satow Stadium, with first pitch scheduled for 3 p.m. The next day, the two teams will head to J.O. Christian Field in Storrs for a doubleheader, with game one scheduled to begin at 12 p.m.


Tyler Keating is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at tyler.keating@uconn.edu.