UConn has had trouble getting production out of the third base spot for all of 2019, presenting a dilemma for head coach Jim Penders. After David Langer’s heroics on Tuesday, a walk-off single to send the Huskies into the second round of the NCAA tournament, Penders might no longer have one.
Do you go with Conor Moriarty’s otherworldly defense while sacrificing some offense? He’s hitting just .155 this year, but his flashy plays at the hot corner are worth something, too. Thad Phillips can hit the ball a country mile, making the move from behind the plate to third base just for this reason, but he’s certainly more of a defensive liability.
Then there’s David Langer, who’s a little bit of both. Another California junior college transfer, the natural third baseman hit .407 at Chabot College before coming to Storrs, and looked to be a possible answer to the Huskies’ third base conundrum after success in the offseason.
Then, the beginning of the season came and Langer struggled. He had just three hits in his first 32 at bats
But because of the conundrum at third base, he kept getting chances to prove himself, finding himself back in Penders’ lineup.
“I was really happy for David, he's a hard working guy,” Penders said. “He's a great student athlete, one of the best guys we have in the classroom, and he's just really worked and had a great positive attitude.”
In the Tulane series, the junior transfer started to put it all together. He went 5-7 in the last two games of the weekend, earning himself a start at third base for UConn’s game against Houston, the first of the American Athletic Conference.
But even early on, it seemed even less likely that Langer would be the Huskies’ savior. He watched two strikes go by in his first at-bat, then flailed at the third. In his next at-bat, he grounded into a fielder's’ choice that saw Kyler Fedko tagged out from third base with one out, instead of coming around to score.
“[Langer] was hanging his head a little on a pitcher's mound visit and I told him ‘Hey, look: you gotta be ready to make a play,’” Penders said. “And he looked at me and said 'I'm ready, I'm ready to make a play.'”
And make a play, he did.
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org