UConn baseball is 5-5 through the first three weeks of the regular season, has a -7 run differential yet is still ranked No. 7 in the nation in WarrenNolan.com’s RPI figure, a near-exact approximation of what the NCAA uses to determine tournament spots.
Now, there’s a reason that the real deal doesn’t come out for a few more weeks, but the fact that they’re ranked that high given their results this year is a good indicator for the quality of opponents that the Huskies have played.
“We always play a tough schedule and it will prepare us for our tough conference slate,” left fielder John Toppa said. “If we want to be the best we have to beat the best, and we’ve beaten some really good teams.”
UConn has played the second-hardest schedule in the nation so far, and that won’t get any easier against Texas State. The Bobcats are 8-4, with signature wins over in-state rivals Rice, Houston and UTSA this past week, and they will be yet another obstacle in the Huskies’ tough early season schedule, a phenomenon that they’ve gotten used to in the past few years.
When to watch
Game one will be played on Friday at 7:30 p.m., game two on Saturday at 3:30 p.m., and the potential rubber match on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Where to watch
All three games will be broadcast live via Texas State Bobcats All-Access at https://txstatebobcats.com/watch/?Live=1783&type=Live in real-life color! Of course, this is if you want to pay the $5.95 single day pass for one game or the $9.95 monthly pass for the whole weekend.
If you don’t mind the audio version, all three games will be broadcast on 91.7 WHUS FM or WHUS.org as always.
What to watch for
UConn’s ace, Mason Feole will take to the mound for the second time after his time on the bench with a triceps injury on Saturday. Jeff Kersten will kick off the series on Friday once again, boasting a 2.95 ERA and allowing opposing hitters to hit just .250 off of him, the best mark among starters this season. Finally, sophomore Joe Simeone will get the nod on Sunday as he tries to shake off a rough start to the season with a 7.84 ERA.
They’ll be matching up against a solid Texas State rotation featuring right-hander Nick Fraze, who fired a seven-inning gem against Rice in the Shriner’s Classic last weekend, striking out 12 and only allowing three men to reach base. Transfer Hunter McMahon will likely start game two on Saturday, fresh off of an impressive six-inning win over UConn’s conference-mate Houston, and Connor Reich and his 1.83 ERA will start on Sunday
UConn’s lineup has been a mixed bag so far in 2019. The veterans in the lineup have had no trouble finding their way on base — the leadoff trio of Michael Woodworth, Anthony Prato and John Toppa have hit a combined .380 on the year, with more hits than the rest of the lineup combined (they’re hitting a combined .195).
A lot of young players make up that area of the batting order, but UConn will need them to start producing by the time conference play rolls around. Mixing and matching at the start of the season is how Penders plans on solving it.
“We need to find the right guys to fill those spots at the bottom of the order,” Penders said. “We have some pieces there and we are excited to see some of these young guys settle in and produce the way we think they will.”
Texas State has much more consistency throughout the lineup, although they haven’t played as tough of a schedule as the Huskies.
Second baseman Jaxon Williams and third baseman Jaylon Hubbard are both batting over .400 so far this year, having started all 13 games of the season. In fact, only two members of the Bobcats’ order are batting under .270 on the year.
UConn’s starting pitching should be able to tame them somewhat, but their bullpen is another area of the team that will have to work their way into form.
Like their lineup, UConn’s two main relievers, setup man CJ Dandeneau and closer Jake Wallace, have been solid, both with 1.35 ERAs, but the rest of their bullpen hasn’t been quite as dependable. If UConn wants a series win against another tough opponent, they’ll need to find themselves, along with the bottom of the lineup.
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.