The Huskies were named the No. 25 team in the nation Monday after going 2-1 during their opening weekend. Multiple players and coaches said they only care about the ranking at the end of the season, but they expect it to fuel Southeastern Louisiana.
“Southeastern Louisiana had that ranking on their website quicker than we had it on ours,” UConn head coach Jim Penders said. “And that tells you everything that you need to know, that it gives them a little extra motivation to knock us off.”
UConn’s (2-1) lone loss of the weekend came against Kennesaw St. 7-3. Starting pitcher Tim Cate struggled a bit over 5.2 innings pitched, surrendering four earned runs. However, the offense left 10 runners on base and struggled to get that key situational hit.
“We put up numbers, we got our hits, but didn’t necessarily get them when we needed them,” Penders said. “I think things could have gone different at Kennesaw St. if we got a couple more clutch hits … The little things need to be sured up and we worked on that.”
Cate, who was selected to the All-Conference team, said that he will to work on putting hitters away.
“My breaker wasn’t as good against Kennesaw St.,” Cate said. “So that is in my head. I wasn’t able to put the hitters away which came back to bite me. I just have to make my pitches and help my team in anyway possible.”
Cate is expected to have a big season and lead the Huskies talented pitching staff. He was named the No. 11 prospect by D1baseball.com, No. 13 by Baseball America and No. 33 by MLB.com
One of the biggest threats that Southeastern Louisiana (4-1) poses is there ability to steal bases. Through five games, they have swiped 25 while only being caught three times. Penders said the team has worked on getting the ball to second and third quickly during practice this week.
“They push the action and put the pressure on you,” Penders said. “They are not afraid of getting thrown out. They are not looking over their shoulder, they are just going to go.”
Cate said the team will stick to the gam plan in order to pace them on the bases.
“I have to throw a lot of strikes and make my pitches, just a standard game plan,” Cate said. “In terms of when they got on base, they already have (25) steals, so I will definitely be paying attention to them on the base path – if any of them get on.”
Over the first five games for Southeastern Louisiana, they are hitting .314/.452/.436 with 40 runs. UConn starting pitcher Mason Feole, who won the American Conference Rookie Pitcher of the Year award last season, said he is ready for a battle on the mound.
“I just compete every time out, whenever I get the ball and put my team in the best position to win,” Feole said. “That is pretty much all that I am thinking about and all that matters to us.”
Offensively, the Huskies put up big numbers last weekend. Against Georgia Tech, Troy Stefanski had the go-ahead hit in the top of the 10th, which led to their victory in the bottom half. Isaac Feldstein provided the power with two home runs.
Penders said that the team is fully focused on the weekend series and will not take their opponent lightly.
“We are expecting a very good baseball team,” Penders said. “And I think with the exception of maybe three or four teams in our own conference - we won’t play a tougher opponent all year.”
Cate is expected to get the start Friday at 7 p.m., Feole will toe the rubber Saturday at 3 p.m. and Chase Gardner will close out the series Sunday at 1 p.m.
Michael Logan is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.