Baseball: Huskies open conference play with home series against Tulane

UConn baseball defeated Colombia in a 4-3 win at J.O. Christian Field in Storrs, Connecticut on Saturday, March 26, 2016. (Zhelun Lang/The Daily Campus)

The UConn baseball team (12-11) will open American Athletic Conference play this weekend when they host Tulane for a three-game series at J.O. Christian Field. The Huskies and the Green Wave will play afternoon games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

UConn ran its winning streak to three games on Tuesday with a strong road win over local rival Boston College. The Huskies narrowly carried a 4-3 lead into the ninth inning before exploding for five insurance wins to help secure a 9-4 win.

Sophomore starter Sam Nepiarsky gave UConn five scoreless innings on the mound in Tuesday’s win, while relievers C.J. Dandeneau and Randy Polonia made important contributions out of the bullpen. Bobby Melley, Willy Yahn and Joe DeRoche-Duffin all recorded two RBIs each to help power the Huskies’ offense.

With a season-opening stretch of 23 non-league games behind them, UConn will now begin conference play against one of their most challenging American competitors. The Tulane Green Wave finished the non-league portion of their schedule with an 18-7 mark, which is the best record of any team in the American.

While the Green Wave are just 4-4 on the road, they have a compiled a dominant 13-1 record at home in New Orleans. They are currently riding a six-game winning streak of their own, which includes victories over Texas, Southern Miss, Illinois State and LSU.

Tulane’s offense has been prolific this season, helping the team outscore opponents 173-109 in 25 games. The Green Wave hit .287 at that plate, while six regular contributors hit at least .300. Stephen Alemais leads the team with a stunning .414 average in 58 at-bats, while Lex Kaplan is the team leader in hits with 30.

Hunter Hope is Tulane’s best power hitter, with a team-leading seven home runs. Hope has racked up 19 RBIs and 24 runs scored. Richard Carthon, Jake Rogers, Grant Witherspoon, Jake Willsey and Jeremy Montalbano are also important hitters for the Green Wave.

The Huskies will likely match the Tulane offense with their usual weekend rotation of Anthony Kay, Tim Cate and Ronnie Rossomando. These three pitchers have combined for a 2-4 record in 13 starts, including 23 earned runs allowed in 84.1 innings pitched. The UConn pitching staff has an earned run average of 3.91.

The Green Wave started Ross Massey, Emerson Gibbs and Alex Massey during their previous weekend series against Illinois State, so the Huskies may see these three on the mound this weekend. The Tulane pitching staff has an earned run average of 3.69.

The Huskies will need strong efforts from Yahn, Melley and other offensive contributors to help knock off the Green Wave this weekend. Yahn currently leads the team with a .340 mark at the plate, including nine doubles and two triples.

UConn and Tulane will kick off their series at 1 p.m. on Friday at J.O. Christian Field. The teams will then play at 1 p.m. on Saturday before concluding with a noon tilt on Sunday.


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