Baseball: Huskies coach Jim Penders reflects on the season and a look to the future

Before the Huskies fell to Washington in the Conway Regional Championship, they had to get past a tough Coastal Carolina team. With ace Mason Feole, Chase Gardner and Tim Cate unavailable, the Huskies head coach Jim Penders rolled with his stud closer P.J. Poulin, who was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 11th round Tuesday. The result was six innings of two-run ball in the 6-5 win.

“We knew that we could start him because (Poulin) is in such tremendous shape,” Penders said. “And he started for us last season.”

Poulin started five of the 19 games he appeared in last season, but was strictly the closer this season where he broke the record for most saves in a single season (16). He filled in for UConn (37-22-1, 14-10 The American) seamlessly when they needed him most in the Regional matchup.

Penders joined women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, men’s basketball coach Dan Hurley, football coach Randy Edsall and Athletic Director David Benedict on their third stop for the Coaches Roadshow at the Hearst Tower in Manhattan. Penders took time to reflect on the team’s future.

He expects rising junior Jacob Wallace to fill Poulin’s vacancy as the team’s closer.

“(Wallace) throws so hard.” Penders said. “(Wallace) has to believe in his stuff. He’s got the best stuff on the team – throw’s in the upper-90’s and has a really good slider.”

Rising sophomore Colby Dunlop finished his season on a high note despite getting the loss in the final game of the season. The righty tossed three innings without allowing an earned run, but surrendered three unearned runs due to shaky defense. Penders said the successful outing was key for Dunlop’s confidence going into the offseason.

Feole received a wide range of recognition after his impressive season, throwing 100.2 innings and striking out 120 batters with a 2.50 ERA. The lefty was invited to the Team USA College National Team as well as being named to Baseball America’s All-America third team.

“(Feole) is an unbelievable person,” Penders said. “The Team USA experience is going to be great for him.”

Penders expects Feole to follow in Cate’s footsteps. The outgoing ace was drafted 65th overall by the Washington Nationals.

Penders said that he is impressed with freshman Christian Fedko’s confidence. The infielder was named a Collegiate Baseball Freshman All- American. The highlight of his season came when he launched the go-ahead homer against Coastal Carolina in the bottom of the eighth inning.

“(Fedko’s) confidence is awesome,” Penders said. “He is not really fast, he is not great side-to-side, but he can really hit.”

The freshman led the team in doubles (15) to go with a .255 batting average and 33 RBIs.

Penders expects most of the incoming freshman to make their way to Storrs. However, he mentioned that he would not be surprised if Michael Burrows, who was drafted by the Pirates in the 11th round, decided to pursue a professional career immediately.

During a Q&A session, Penders talked about how being in the American Conference helps him to recruit because of their success against their tough conference foes.

Despite the Huskies making an impressive run to a Regional and finishing as the No. 17 team, Penders is not content quite yet.

“We are only going to be satisfied when we are the last team standing in Omaha,” Penders said. “But we got a little closer with a lot of gritty, tough and resilient kids that emptied the tank for us this season.”


Michael Logan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at michael.logan@uconn.edu.