Coming off of the biggest regular season series wins in recent memory against No. 4 Louisville, UConn baseball will look to carry that momentum forward this weekend against the College of Charleston.
When to watch
Game one: Friday, Feb. 22 at 4 p.m.
Game two: Saturday, Feb. 23 at 2 p.m.
Game three: Sunday, Feb. 24 at noon
Where to watch
Once again, none of the games will be televised, but all will air on the radio, either on 91.7 WHUS Storrs or WHUS.org.
What to watch for
Even after their huge win against Louisville, UConn can’t afford to overlook their opponents this weekend. College of Charleston finished last year a respectable 67th in RPI last year — right round American teams like Wichita State and Cincinnati — but is already 4-0 in 2019, with a series sweep of UNC Asheville and a midweek victory over Charleston Southern.
“It is always more challenging to keep that chip on your shoulder after a big series win but I think the guys still have that edge after this week’s practices,” head coach Jim Penders said. “We have a lot of (the) season to go and haven’t achieved any of our goals yet.”
With Mason Feole still nursing a minor triceps injury, UConn will keep the same rotation going into this weekend. Junior Jeffrey Kersten will take the mound on Friday following his six-inning scoreless outing last week, while Colby Dunlop will try to improve upon his jittery first weekend start last Saturday where he gave up eight hits and nine earned runs through 2.1 innings.
Sunday looks to be a bullpen day once again, which won’t be a bad thing given how impressive UConn relievers were in last weekend’s rubber match. We’re likely to see Jake Wallace and C.J. Dandeneau make appearances in high-leverage situations, while Penders will continue to test out Chase Gardner from the bullpen along with less-proven entities like Avery Santos, Jimmy Wang, Kenny Haus and Angus Mayock.
The Cougars’ offense will be a tough one to crack. Samples through four games aren’t entirely reliable, but they have hit for over .300 as a team so far, not a far cry from their .279 team average last year, while scoring six or more run in every game this season.
A pair of transfers have stood out early for Charleston: Third baseman Chaz Davey and designated hitter Harrison Hawkins have accounted for a quarter of the Cougars’ hits and nearly a third of their total RBI.
UConn’s offense got off to a slow start, batting just .230/.370/.304 after one week, but that’s hardly unusual against a pitching staff as impressive as Louisville’s. That won’t be quite the case against Charleston. If they put runs on the board against Griffin McLarty, Charleston’s best returning starter, they shouldn’t have a problem getting past the next two. Saturday and Sunday projected starters Blake Roberson and Austin George have combined to pitch 4.1 innings, gave up six earned runs and eight hits.
At least through the first series of the season, second baseman Christian Fedko has lived up to the offseason talk. He’s gotten on base in eight out of 12 plate appearances, leads all starters in batting average and has been solid on defense as well.
Not far behind Fedko is veteran shortstop Anthony Prato, who leads the team with five hits through three games and John Toppa, who went 4-13 in his first series. First baseman Chris Winkel didn’t get off to the best start to his season, going just 2-12, but his bat figures to get going against a less-formidable pitching staff.
Charleston might not be quite as scary of an opponent as Louisville opening week, but UConn shouldn’t treat them as a pushover. This weekend’s series will serve as another opportunity for Penders to further test newcomers to the lineup and the bullpen, as well as get some of his veterans back on track.
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.