Baseball: UConn’s pitching shines in weekend of pitcher’s duels

Patrick Ruotolo delivers a pitch during UConn's victory over Houston at J.O. Christian Field over the weekend. Ruotolo is sporting a 1.98 ERA on the year. (Jason Jiang/The Daily Campus)

The UConn Huskies baseball team took on the Houston Cougars in a weekend series between American Athletic Conference rivals. The Huskies clearly got the better of the Cougars, sweeping the series with relative ease. The highlight of the series was unquestionably the fantastic pitching matchups in all three games.

Kay Dominates. Again.

The headliner of the pitchers’ duels came on Friday in a battle between UConn ace Anthony Kay and Houston ace Andrew Lantrip. Kay came out on top in the matchup, earning the win for the Huskies in a 3-2 game. Despite the offense struggling to get much out of Lantrip, Kay got just enough run support from his teammates to ensure his dominant performance would not go to waste.

"He was the story of the day,” head coach Jim Penders said. “You have your ace showing up on a Friday afternoon and just telling his teammates to hop on his back and he’ll carry them. He did a great job, and he was strong into the ninth inning before we pulled him for (Patrick) Ruotolo, who’s been hot lately.”

Kay’s finished the afternoon with 8.1 IP, two runs, six hits and eight strikeouts. With the win, Kay is now 4-2 this year. This performance is exactly what has been expected of Kay as the ace to a solid, albeit young, rotation. He has consistently delivered every weekend to start each series and he gives the other players in a dugout some confidence to go out and get just enough runs to win the game because they know he’ll make sure the other team won’t get the runs they need.

“Anthony was unbelievable today,” freshman catcher Zac Susi said. “He had a great command the entire day, and it was awesome to see him really control the game. Once we got the lead, it was over.”

UConn’s Freshman Pitchers Just as Strong

Freshman left-hander Tim Cate and freshman right-hander Randy Polonia were not to be outdone by Kay, however, as they put in fantastic performances in their own right on Saturday, leading the Huskies to a 4-1 victory over Houston.

Cate started on the mound and although he allowed a run in the first inning, he buckled down, stayed focused and pitched six scoreless innings. He finished with six strikeouts for the game and only allowed three hits and one run in seven innings pitched. This was his longest outing of the season, earning the first win of his career, a surprise considering his excellent consistency throughout his freshman year thus far.

“He’s done a very good job, his record coming in at 0-1 doesn’t tell the story of how well he’s pitched for us,” Penders said of Cate. “He’s been a lot of fun to watch. He’s very good with his preparation between starts. He’s a very meticulous pitcher, and he’s got three really good pitches to throw up there and he’s got a lot of confidence going and hopefully that continues for us.”

The closer Polonia would come on in relief of Cate for a six-out save and delivered in his own right, striking out four batters in his two innings of work. His performance earned him a team-leading sixth save for the year.

“Randy did a really good job closing and kept them [Houston] guessing with his slider out there,” Penders said. “Those two guys [Cate and Polonia], they are our two freshman pitchers from Connecticut and they have to be our bread and butter. We need the best pitchers from Connecticut to come to UConn and we thought they were the best in high school last year, and I’m glad they’ve proven us right so far.”