It’s no secret what happened to sports, and the world, in the spring of 2020. Thousands have lost their lives to coronavirus, but thousands more could have been lost if sports were not canceled on March 20 by the NCAA.
In the short time the UConn baseball team had together, they showed us the potential of something special. Through 13 games, they went 8-5 in a shortened season in Jim Penders’ 17th year in Storrs.
They kicked off the year in the MLB4 Collegiate Baseball Tournament, playing Cal Poly, No. 1 Vanderbilt and No. 8 Michigan. They took two losses, by five runs apiece, to Cal Poly and Vanderbilt to open the year. Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker threw six scoreless innings and struck out nine in their win.
UConn beat Michigan 7-1, though, as newcomer Nick Krauth threw 5.2 innings of one-run ball before the bullpen finished it off with 3.1 innings of shutout ball.
After beating them the weekend before, the Huskies took down Baseball America’s then No. 1 ranked Michigan twice in a three-game set. Coming into the ninth on Friday’s game tied 7-7, Christian Fedko singled up the middle to score Chris Winkel to give them an 8-7 lead before closer Caleb Wurster locked down the save. They lost 14-2 on Saturday, but Krauth came out on Sunday and was very good once again – holding them to two runs over five innings while the offense scored four off Michigan starter Blake Beers.
The Michigan series was the Huskies statement series of the year, but afterward they ran off five straight against New Orleans, Presbyterian and Hartford to close out the year.
Krauth, a transfer from JUCO school Diablo Valley College, was one of many standouts for the Huskies. Through four starts Krauth gave up just one earned run in 24.2 innings of work, good for 0.36 ERA, which was the 13th best in the nation. He struck out 24 batters and gave up just one extra base hit, a double to New Orleans’ Howard Pearce.
The Fedko brothers, Christian and Kyler, had another strong season for the Huskies. Kyler led the team in hits, OPS and total bases through 13 games. His .414 average led all full-time starters as well. He struck out just four times on the season, through 51 at-bats. Christian hit .275 with 12 RBIs in 51 at-bats as well.
First basemen Reggie Crawford, a freshman from Frackville, Penn., had a great introduction to the program hitting .365 with a home run and 16 RBIs in 13 games. His .972 OPS was second-best on the squad to only Kyler Fedko.
Chris Winkel had a strong year as well, hitting .348 with 12 runs scored and five stolen bases as their everyday center fielder.
Some more honorable mentions for the year are Wurster, who had a 1.29 ERA through seven innings out of the ‘pen, Joe Simeone and his 3.00 ERA as the Friday starter, and Erik Stock, who hit .484 through nine games.
Next year, UConn should be getting catcher Pat Winkel back from Tommy John surgery in the Fall as well as any potential returning seniors after the NCAA granted spring sports a one-time additional year of eligibility. No information about potential returners has come out yet, and likely will not until after the MLB Draft, according to the athletic department.