UConn baseball played its final fall exhibition game on Friday against Academy Baseball of Canada, winning by a score of 13-2 over the club’s 18-and-under developmental team.
“I know this [was] a great experience for their guys as well as for ours,” head coach Jim Penders said. “They’ve got some talented players and [are] continuing to grow at their age.”
Several Huskies acquitted themselves well in their last chance to step on J. O. Christian Field in a game situation before entering the section of the offseason focused on strength and conditioning.
Veteran left fielder John Toppa went 2-3 with two doubles down the left-field line, while freshman Patrick Winkel went 2-3 with a double to the wall. Youngster Will Lucas impressed again on the bump, firing a perfect three-strikeout inning in the ninth, sitting down top prospects not a year younger than himself.
UConn broke it open in the fourth and sixth innings, scoring nine total runs highlighted by a bases-clearing double from first baseman Chris Winkel and a two-RBI single from third baseman Thad Phillips.
For the Academy, however, the game was less about the numbers on the scoreboard and more about getting their players looks at the Division One level.
The Academy carries on the tradition of old barnstorming clubs like the House of David and the Caribbean Kings, playing over 115 games from the spring to the fall across North America.
If anything, entertainment is a secondary goal however: The first and foremost is developing the young baseball stars of Canada and exposing them to Division One colleges, either through showcase tournaments or playing the teams directly, Academy manager Robert Fatal said.
“We want to expose our guys to the big D1 teams in the Northeast to try and find some scholarships for the guys,” Fatal said. “We went through the process and UConn called us, it’s a very big D1 [school] in the Northeast and we can give the players a chance to play on top.”
The Academy starts out in the spring and summer playing in showcase tournaments throughout the south, then start to scrimmage college teams in the fall.
They have three players currently committed to D1 colleges: Catcher Raphael Pelletier to TCU and outfielders Simon Merrier and Jean-Cristophe to Campbell and Missouri respectively.
The Academy travelled to play the University of Hartford on Saturday, and then to Boston to play Northeastern on Sunday as part of their tour of Northeast baseball schools, but the trip already paid off for the Academy on Friday. UConn head coach Jim Penders had expressed interest in and wanted to stay in contact with some of their players, Fatal said.
“They impressed going up against our older guys,” Penders said. “I hope we can make this a consistent event in the fall.”
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.