UConn baseball head coach Jim Penders has a resume chock-full of accolades: six NCAA tournament appearances, four conference Coach of the Year awards and more victories than any other manager in program history.
As the academic year at UConn comes to a close with this weekend’s commencement festivities, there’s still baseball to be played. Students will gather to receive their diplomas in Gampel Pavilion while the Huskies will be in the midst of the last series to ever be played at J.O. Christian Field, when the Bulls of USF come to town.
A look at UConn’s tournament chances in the home stretch
Even though Penders hasn’t take a class at UConn in 25 years, he still dreads exam week every time it rolls around.
“it’s one of my most miserable weeks of the year because you just can’t work with the team very much,” Penders said. “It’s important for them to get some work in on their own in between studying to address some weaknesses.”
Seven words. That was all Jim Penders offered on what his team, who dropped back-to-back weekend series, needed to start a three-game set with Wichita State the right way.
“Mason Feole needs to be Mason Feole.”
With Dunkin Donuts Park and the city of Hartford as his backdrop, the undisputed ace of the Huskies’ staff proved why he is he just that: the ace.
The last time UConn was at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, things didn’t exactly go as planned. UConn dropped a mistake-filled three-game series against Cincinnati, kicking off the mid-season malaise that they’re still trying to escape.
The Huskies are just one game over .500 in the three weeks since then, and they’re hoping that this time, a series in front of a Hartford crowd can change their fortunes once again.
Jim Penders, head coach and leader of UConn Baseball, has quite a storied career with the Huskies. A former player and assistant, he was named head coach in 2004 and in that time produced numerous professionals, as well as future coaches. The impact he has had on them, and the program, is profound. Several of them were willing to make time to share their most memorable anecdote from their time with Penders with Matt Barresi of The Daily Campus.
UConn bounced back in a big way Tuesday afternoon in a 9-1 win over Central Connecticut, allowing just three hits on the day. The Huskies were fresh off their second-straight series loss that had been capped off by a walk-off home run on Sunday.
“I thought it was a really well-played game on our side,” head coach Jim Penders said. “The scoreboard should look like that at JOC. Would love to see it more often.”
The Huskies’ trip to Texas got off to a good start on Thursday, as the team met with former Husky and World Series MVP George Springer at the Astros’ Minute Maid Park. Springer talked with the team and showed them around the facilities. The Huskies hope Springer’s elite swing will rub off on a lineup that has struggled mightily as of late to bring runners home.
If you’re a reliever, you have to be prepared to come into the game at the worst possible time and clean up someone else’s mess. It’s in the job description. That’s exactly what Caleb Wurster faced when he entered the game in UConn’s 2-1 win against Rhode Island on Wednesday.
“In these situations, my mindset is always just throw strikes, trust myself, trust my pitches,” Wurster said. “I know that if I execute my pitches, I have full faith that I can get the job done.”
The next time you attend a baseball game at J.O. Christian Field, you’ll be able to hear pitching coach Josh MacDonald long before you see him, even though he doesn’t realize it: Barking not-so-nice words at the umpire after every borderline call (and some that aren’t even close); defending his players’ every inch.
“It’s kind of embarrassing that you guys can hear me sometimes,” MacDonald joked. “There’s not a lot of nice words that come out if you’re able to hear me.”
After a short-lived stint in the national rankings, UConn (23-13, 7-5 The American) dropped out of the polls due to a rough weekend against Cincinnati. Since then, however, the Huskies have made a strong case to get back in the top-25, having won four of five including a series win over conference foe Memphis over the weekend.