Baseball: Huskies set for a full conference series at J.O.C

UConn Baseball plays against Northeastern University with a 6-2 win. This leaves the team at 21-12 in the season. (Photo by Brandon Barzola/The Daily Campus)

After a disappointing weekend at Dunkin Donuts Park, the Huskies got back to playing their brand of baseball in a pair of mid-week wins at J.O. Christian Field. Now, the challenge becomes translating an energized, fun-having dugout to the team’s conference schedule as the Memphis Tigers make the trek to Storrs for the weekend.

“Well you hope it continues right where we left off today. You hope that you can continue that on Friday,” head coach Jim Penders said after Wednesday’s win.

“I think just playing good baseball, no matter who we’re playing, was important,” Penders added.

When to watch

Friday, April 12 at 3 p.m.

Saturday, April 13 at 1 p.m.

Sunday, April 14 at noon

Where to watch

Friday night’s action will air on WUCS 97.9 FM ESPN Hartford and WAVZ 1300 AM. WAVZ 1300 AM will have Saturday’s game along with WPOP 1410 AM & 100.9 FM, while good ol’ WHUS 91.7 FM will have the call for the series finale on Sunday.

What to watch for

UConn (21-12, 5-3 The American) fell out of the Top 25 following the series with Cincy. Mason Feole got touched up his last time out, most notably a three-run homerun, but does not necessarily need to be on top of his game for the Huskies to walk away with another Friday win.

“I think we learned last weekend, if your ace gets hit and it was one hit really, but it was a big one, we can’t go into a corner,” Penders said. “We can’t cower in a corner. We gotta come right back out and hit back and not be ... more tentative than we should be.”

Penders’ club is back to playing “Husky baseball,” and it shows. Guys are more loose and easy going in the dugout and during at-bats, and the numbers are there to back it up. Michael Woodworth and Anthony Prato have been immovable from the top of the stat sheet. While the two have, mostly, batted one and two in the UConn lineup, they remain the top dogs of batting averages, hitting .372 and .347, respectively.

Though Woodworth still leads the team in longballs (four), the west coast kid and Prato, who hails from Staten Island, each carry significant on-base streaks into the weekend. Prato says he tries not to think about the 39-straight games he’s been on the basepaths, compared to Woodworth’s 30 games.

“I try not to think about it,” Prato said. “I just try to get on base, let [Toppa] and the couple guys behind me knock me in. I try not to think about it because that’s when I start getting in my head.”

One player has found himself up at the top of the lineup, disrupting the usual flow of Woodworth-Prato-Toppa. Anthony Nucerino rides an eight-game hitting streak into the weekend and saw himself in the two-spot in UConn’s pair of midweek wins. The usual right fielder’s average has rocketed from the .200s to .341 in his 13 starts, good enough for third on the team.

As for Memphis (16-14, 3-3 The American), they sit three spots behind the Huskies in conference standings in sixth place. Most recently, the Tigers took two-of-three from Southern University. Their two wins came via a double header sweep in which the Tigers outscored Southern 24-13.

UConn holds a 15-6 all-time advantage over the Tigers, winning every series since 2015, but Hunter Smith may have something else in mind come Friday. Projected to face-off against Mason Feole come Friday, Smith is fresh off a seven-inning no decision against Southern and will need to lower his 4.21 ERA if Memphis plans to walk away with a win. The senior from Brandon Mississippi does not let many men reach base, striking out 54 compared to his 10 walks.

Outfielder Peyton Marshall has made the most of his senior campaign. The Kingsport, Tennessee native is slashing .381/.571/.481 in 21 appearances thus far, with 15 runs and 17 RBIs.

Hunter Goodman is not far behind, and is only a freshman. Like UConn’s own Pat Winkel, Goodman is the backstop for his AAC squad and has started all 30 games this year. The rookie is hitting an impressive .336 with 36 RBI and is tied for the team lead in home runs (four).

This series marks the first full three game set the Huskies will play at J.O. Christian Field this season. With a 5-3 home record in 2019, Penders had one message for his team before Friday’s first pitch: “We need to protect our home turf.”


Kevin Arnold is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at kevin.arnold@uconn.edu.