Baseball: American Athletic Conference tournament preview

UConn Huskies third baseman Willy Yahn rounds the bases after a hit in the Huskies' 6-2 win over the Memphis Tigers on April 7, 2017. (Tyler Benton/The Daily Campus)

UConn Huskies third baseman Willy Yahn rounds the bases after a hit in the Huskies' 6-2 win over the Memphis Tigers on April 7, 2017. (Tyler Benton/The Daily Campus)

In their last American Athletic Conference Tournament game, the UConn Huskies baseball team defeated Houston 7-2 for their first ever AAC Championship.

This year, the Huskies will head back to Clearwater, Florida as the tournament’s No. 3 seed after finishing the regular season with a 14-10 record in conference play. UConn will begin the tournament with a game against No. 6 Cincinnati. UConn won two of three games when the Bearcats visited Storrs in late April.

Head coach Jim Penders will start sophomore P.J. Poulin on the mound in the opening game of the double elimination tournament. Poulin started four games this season, going 2-0 with a 3.41 ERA in 18 appearances while pitching 31.2 innings.

UConn will match up against Houston or Memphis in their second game. The Huskies will play Memphis on Wednesday at 9 a.m. if they lose their opener or against Houston on Thursday at 3 p.m. if UConn wins.

Houston took two out of three at home against UConn this year, while the Huskies swept Memphis in three games at J.O. Christian Field.

This week, the Huskies had several players earning All-Conference recognition for their play throughout the regular season.

Pitchers Mason Feole and Tim Cate were selected to as first team All-Conference and pitcher Wills Montgomerie, reliever John Russell, shortstop Anthony Prato and third baseman Willy Yahn made the second team.

Feole was also named the American Athletic Conference Rookie Pitcher of the Year, marking the second consecutive year a Huskies’ pitcher has won the award after Cate received the honor last season. The freshman went 7-3 in 13 starts in his first collegiate season, pitching 78.1 innings with a 3.10 ERA that was good for sixth in the conference.

Cate capped off his season with a complete game shutout of East Carolina on Thursday night, earning him this week’s American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week honors. Cate recorded 98 strikeouts and pitched 70.1 innings in 11 starts with a 2.94 ERA.

Montgomerie led the conference in strikeouts with 109, earning six wins in his 14 starts. The junior right-hander led the Huskies in innings pitched with 83.2 with a 3.55 ERA.

Russell led the conference with 14 saves on the year, breaking the UConn single-season record of 13 set in 2011. The junior impressively recorded 61 strikeouts in just 34.2 innings.

Prato had a solid first collegiate season at shortstop, batting .282 with 59 hits and 26 RBI. Prato led the Huskies with 44 runs scored and 15 stolen bases.

Yahn missed the first few games of the season with an injury, but played in 44 games and led UConn with a .316 batting average. The junior had 17 multi-hit games and hit 10 doubles on the season.


Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering baseball. He can be reached via email at joshua.buser@uconn.edu.