The UConn baseball team split a four-game series in South Carolina last weekend against three solid teams, and it’s not getting any easier this weekend. The Huskies will head down to Lubbock, Texas to play No. 9 ranked Texas Tech for four games in four days, from Friday to Monday.
The Huskies (4-6) have had a bit of a rough start to the season, but they’ve been competitive in every game, as none of their losses have been by more than two runs. Meanwhile, the Red Raiders (10-3) are on fire. After losing three games to start the season against No. 8 Arkansas, No. 6 Ole Miss and No. 7 Mississippi State, Texas Tech has rattled off 10 straight wins, including two this week over Gonzaga.
The Red Raiders have a scary lineup. They’re hitting .292 as a team and have five guys hitting over .300. They also have 19 home runs as a team, which is tied for eighth-most in the country. Their best hitter this season has been second-year freshman Jace Jung, who is batting .404 with an absurd 1.367 OPS in his team’s first 13 games. He also leads the team with 19 hits, six home runs and 23 RBIs. He will be a bat that UConn’s pitching staff will need to be weary of. One of the other top bats for Texas Tech is third-year freshman Cal Conley, who’s batting .339 with three home runs and 15 RBIs.
On the mound, left hander Patrick Monteverde, a grad transfer from Seton Hill in Pennsylvania, has been their top arm. He has made three starts and has yet to allow a run in 18 innings pitched, notching two wins so far and 23 strikeouts. Another lefty, Mason Montgomery, has also been effective in his three starts, letting up just one run each outing for a 1.80 ERA.
Despite the discrepancy in records, UConn should be able to match up well with Texas Tech. In Friday’s game, the Huskies will look for Ben Casparius to follow up his great outing from last week with another one. He went eight shutout innings, striking out 11 against Miami (Ohio). It will obviously be much tougher to replicate those numbers against a top 10 team, but the Huskies need a good outing from him if they’re going to make some noise this weekend.
The reason for that is beyond Casparius, the Huskies haven’t gotten great production from their starters. Joe Simeone has struggled a little bit as the Saturday starter with a 4.91 ERA, and while Austin Peterson has been pretty decent in his two Sunday starts so far, against a lineup like Texas Tech, UConn is going to need more. Monday’s performance against Coastal Carolina was a disaster on the mound, so the Huskies need to find more depth especially from their starters in order to have success.
UConn also needs a little more consistency at the plate. Christian Fedko and Reggie Crawford have been awesome, batting .317 and .310, respectively, and Crawford has been killing the ball, slugging five home runs so far this season. But beyond these two, it’s kind of been a question mark of who is going to step up. Zach Bushling had a really good series last weekend, and Erik Stock and Pat Winkel have been good, but top to bottom, guys need to be putting better at-bats together. They also need guys like Chris Winkel and Kyler Fedko to break out of their early season slumps.
This is going to be a tough series for the Huskies. There’s no doubt about that. But a successful showing against one of the best teams in the country would be a huge confidence boost for a team that’s stumbled a little out of the gate. It could turn their season right around. Head coach Jim Penders has been notorious for wanting to play the best teams in the country because “in order to be the best, you have to play the best.” This weekend is a prime example of that. If the UConn pitching staff can figure itself out and the bats come alive like we’ve seen flashes of, this could be a really interesting series.
As far as history between the two squads, there isn’t much. The Huskies and Red Raiders have played just one time before, back in February of 2013 in a 1-0 UConn win in 11 innings.
This weekend’s games will be at 3 p.m. on all three days, and they can all be seen on ESPN+ or listened to on 91.7 WHUS.