On Saturday, the UConn baseball team saw its first competitive action since being eliminated from the NCAA Tournament back in June. They opened up their fall ball schedule by taking a short trip to Kingston to face off with the University of Rhode Island in a pair of seven-inning games.
The Huskies won both games by scores of 7-3 and 9-0. The games featured a healthy mix of good performances, from established players and encouraging showings from some new guys. Head coach Jim Penders said the team started slow but finished on a high note.
“I thought there were a lot of positives later on in the day,” Penders told UConn Athletics. “The first three innings, if there was a play to be made we weren’t going to make it … It looked like we were playing tentative. It looked like we were a little scared and on our heels, but I thought we responded really well.”
In Game 1, sophomore catcher Pat Winkel fueled the offense with a two-run home run. That comes as little surprise, considering Winkel led the Huskies with seven home runs last year as a freshman. He is primed for a breakout season this spring.
On the mound, the Huskies got scoreless innings from four UConn freshmen. Andrew Marrerro, Garrett Coe, Josh Cowen and Max Nielsen all pitched well in their debuts by giving up no runs.
In Game 2, none of the UConn pitchers gave up any runs. Community college transfer Nick Krauth started the game and threw three innings. Senior Kenny Haus relieved him and threw two. True freshman Reggie Crawford and redshirt senior Randy Polonia closed the shutout with one inning each.
Haus was a pleasant surprise in his first season in Storrs last year. He appeared in 14 games and picked up two wins in his six starts. He also didn’t allow a run in 5.1 innings pitched in the NCAA Regional. Polonia has had some tough luck during his time at UConn, missing the entire 2017 and 2018 seasons due to injury. He bounced back last season by making 12 appearances and tallying a win. Both will likely be key parts of this year’s pitching staff.
The offense was potent in the second game, smashing 13 hits and putting nine runs on the scoreboard. Sophomore infielder Will Lucas led the way with three hits and two RBI in the rout.
Lucas didn’t make much of an impact in his limited time last year, but with the departure of several key players, including shortstop Anthony Prato, Lucas could take a big step for his sophomore season.
Next up on the fall ball schedule, the Huskies will take on Academie Baseball Canada on Oct. 4. The game will be played on Eastern’s field while UConn’s new stadium on campus is being built.
Danny Barletta is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com. He tweets @dbars_12.