The Huskies are coming off a series loss against first place Houston and a midweek defeat to the University of Rhode Island. UConn will look to get back on track to close out the regular season against a tough opponent in ECU.
“Every time I think their backs are to the wall, they respond in this kind of fashion, so it shouldn’t surprise me, I’m very proud of them,” UConn head coach Jim Penders said in an interview on the team’s website after salvaging the final game against Houston.
ECU (38-13, 13-8 AAC) has a plethora of talent on both sides of the diamond. Sophomore Bryant Packard leads the entire American Conference in batting, with a .409 average. The slugger has also clubbed 12 homers and 45 RBIs. Junior Dwanya Williams-Sutton has been terrific at the dish as well, mashing seven homers, six doubles and 18 RBIs over 30 games started.
The Pirates pitching has been even better. Tyler Smith’s 1.85 ERA is second in the Conference, while Chris Holba’s 2.07 ERA is third. Smith doesn’t rely on a ton of strikeouts, as he has 34 in 58.1 innings pitched. The Huskies will have to be aggressive and find holes in the defense.
UConn (30-17-1, 12-9 AAC) has dropped three of their last four, but have responded well all season with their backs against the wall. The Huskies ace, Mason Feole has been dominant as the Friday night starter, pitching to a 2.58 ERA (seventh in the conference) with 99 strikeouts in 80.1 innings pitched.
Feole pitched even though he was feeling under the weather in his last start. Penders praised the lefty after he tossed 6.2 innings, allowing three earned runs.
“[Feole] gave a valiant effort tonight, he knows how thin we are and he’s taken the ball and under those circumstances, he didn’t say a word about it, but he was hurting,” Penders said after the game Friday. “The fact that he wants the ball and was leading that way means the world to the coaching staff and his teammates.”
Chase Gardner has pitched well this season and should be fully rested in his next start after lasting only 3.2 innings in the team’s lone win against Houston. The lefty has a 3.59 ERA on the season over 12 starts.
The offense is led by junior captain Zac Susi who is batting .327 (10th in the American) to go with a homer, eight doubles and 30 RBIs. Senior Isaac Feldstein is tied for second in the conference with 13 homeruns.
ECU is coming off a series win against Cincinnati. The Pirates are currently ranked No. 13 for RPI, while the Huskies are not too far behind them at No. 23. UConn is fighting for playoff seeding this weekend as they are in fourth place.
The series begins Thursday at 1 p.m., continues Friday at 1 p.m., and ends Sunday at 1 p.m. The entire series will be played at J. O. Christian Field on campus.
Michael Logan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.