Mason Feole hasn’t been the same pitcher this season that the J.O. Christian Field faithful have grown accustomed to. His 3.35 ERA is good, but not close to his stellar 2.50 mark last year. He’s just 1-2 as a starter and he hasn’t hit his spots well in losses against Cincinnati and UCF.
But, luckily for UConn baseball, he looked exactly like his old self Friday in a win against Memphis to kick the Huskies’ series off. Feole struck out seven in 6.2 innings of work, allowed just one earned run and reminded everyone of just who exactly won The American Athletic Conference preseason pitcher of the year.
“It’s nice to be out there competing again, it was just awesome to get that team win today,” Feole said after the game.
Even the way he earned his 20 outs was vintage Feole, loading the bases with Tigers seemingly every inning, but still finding a way to get out of it – Memphis left nine runners on base Friday.
“He’s good at making messes, but he’s really good at cleaning them up too,” head coach Jim Penders said. “I thought he competed really, really well, gave us a nice start.”
Fewer major league scouts were on hand for Feole’s quality start Friday than the game against Cincinnati, which is a shame because his stuff was electric. He threw his fastball inside at batters to keep them off-balance, then dropped his curveball on the outside of the plate.
“I was just going back to having fun, working with coach [Josh MacDonald] and Pat [Winkel] today trying to get the fastball in one guy’s hands and just go back to making guys feel uncomfortable by getting inside, using both sides of the plate,” Feole said.
Before Friday’s start, Feole’s early-season problems were caused by the fact that he started the year on the bench. He experienced discomfort in his throwing arm and underwent successful treatment for it in the offseason but missed the opening three weeks of the season in a throwing program. He felt fine, he just had to get all the way used to pitching again.
“It’s like doing hill sprints, you know the results are going to be there when you get over that hump, you just have to be real diligent with the rehab, with the day-to-day, with the routine,” Feole said.
Having UConn’s ace back to his old self is crucial at this point in the season, where just one slip-up in a grueling conference schedule could mean the difference between making or missing the NCAA tournament.
Next series up is the conference juggernaut, ECU and Feole is just happy to be back in the middle of the action, playing meaningful games again.
“Not getting the ball completely was something that was difficult because I’ve never really been in that situation, so to finally get that ball, be a part of what we’re doing now, that’s really special,” Feole said.
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.