The UConn baseball team faced off with the Niagara County Community College Thunder Wolves of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) in their first fall exhibition game on Friday afternoon at J.O. Christian Field. They played a total of 10 innings to get some extra players into the game, and the Huskies won 6-0.
UConn went ahead 1-0 early on a first inning RBI double by junior first baseman Chris Winkel that scored senior left fielder John Toppa.
Nobody scored again until the bottom of the fifth inning, when junior Thad Phillips hit a sac fly to score UConn Avery Point transfer Michael Chiovitti. Then, sophomore Christian Fedko roped an RBI single to left to score Toppa again and increase the lead to 3-0.
UConn started emptying its bench in the sixth inning, and in the seventh got a pleasant surprise. After junior David Langer got hit by a pitch, freshman Will Lucas doubled to deep right field to score the fourth UConn run. He later came around to score on an error by the Thunder Wolves third baseman Bryan Rivera.
The Huskies has seven pitchers in total, and none allowed a run. Senior Jeff Kersten started the game and threw the first inning. Relievers freshman Jake Sanderson, sophomore Colby Dunlop, freshman Tyler Briggs, senior Avery Santos, freshman Adam Schwartz and senior C.J. Dandeneau each came on for brief appearances.
Coach Jim Penders was impressed by the performances of his freshmen pitchers.
“I thought some of the rookies, especially on the mound, if they made a mistake, they were able to correct it and that was good to see,” he said.
Penders was also pleased he was able to get so many players into a game that didn’t count, but was still competitive.
“We want guys to get broken in in the fall when it doesn’t mean as much as it does in the spring but have them still feel a little bit of pressure and that’s accomplished a lot better when there’s a different team in the other dugout,” he said.
Per new NCAA Division 1 rules, teams can play exhibition fall games without them counting against the spring schedule.
About this, Penders said it’s great thing that the NCAA has done, and it allows him to use these games as a sort-of extended tryout for the team’s final roster and reserves.
The Huskies will play the second of three fall ball games next Saturday against the UConn Avery Point team.
Danny Barletta is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.