UConn baseball scores grand slam with class of 2022 signees  

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10/16/21 Baseball vs. URI by Erin Knapp The UConn Huskies Baseball team take on the University of Rhode Island Rams at a 1pm game on Saturday Oct. 16 at Elliot Ballpark in Storrs. The Huskies beat the Rams 5-2.

As if the University of Connecticut baseball team hasn’t already had a successful fall season, the team had another major win last Wednesday. This was National Signing Day, where high school student-athletes commit to a college career by signing their National Letter of Intent and a select few become Huskies. 

UConn is a national brand and baseball is no exception to the excellence that UConn Athletics breeds year after year in Storrs. Especially with how many UConn players, from baseball and other sports, enter professional athletic careers, the expectations for teams with established success keep rising, and so do the standards for recruits. 

Here’s the first look at the new players you’ll see in pinstripes next fall:  

Jude Abbadessa 

Abbadessa got his first taste of fame when he won the 2016 Little League World Series at the age of 12 on the Maine-Endwell team from New York. It was love at first sight for Abbadessa, who wanted nothing more than to play college baseball and knew immediately that’s where he would play. As a right-handed pitcher, he throws a fastball at 91 mph and had his most recent no-hitter this past August. In that same game, he had 11 strikeouts while he was pitching for the East Coast Lumberjacks. He can also play as a middle infielder, which makes sense because of his ball speed and pitcher’s mentality. Abbadessa’s positive energy and skills have some good things in “Storrs” for the Huskies and he should bring lots of charisma to the team. 

Niko Brini 

Brini is Massachusetts’ fifth-ranked prospect, hailing from Boston College High School in Plymouth. Less than two weeks ago, he had a clutch performance in the outfield to lead his team, North East Baseball National 18U, to victory in the Perfect Game New England Fall World Series. The lefty was previously chosen to play in A Shot for Life Home Run Derby, which benefits the Dr. Curry Research Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital. He hits well, and does so in a way to create constant RBI chances for the rest of the lineup. Whether he’s running to catch a ball or after he’s just hit one, Brini is fast and his speed both in front of the plate and beyond it will quickly become a valuable asset to UConn baseball.  

Sam Clark 

A pitcher and an outfielder, Clark has an incredibly strong right arm. The Scarborough native will come down to Connecticut from Maine with a maximum barrel speed of 72.395 mph, which is in the top 95.43 percentile of his class, since the class average is at 63.19 mph. Clark was the star pitcher for Cheverus High School, and he played for the Maine Lightning. Back in May, he actually faced UConn freshman pitcher Brady Afthim, a former Lightning player from Windham, ME. In that game, Clark had 12 strikeouts and only allowed a hit to Afthim, and Clark had some hits batting against Afthim. It’ll be really interesting to see these two continue playing together, especially with them both as right-handed pitchers, and it’s evident that they will represent Maine well in Storrs.  

Maddix Dalena 

A true utility player, Dalena has experience as a first baseman, third baseman, right-handed pitcher and a catcher. He currently doesn’t have a Perfect Game grade, but does throw an 87 mph fastball, putting him in the upper 84.57 percentile of the incoming class. No matter what position he’s in, he can throw; very far and very well. Dalena seems to embody the spirit of a “jack of all trades, master of none; still better than a master of one” in a baseball player which is incredibly valuable, coming onto a baseball team as stacked as UConn’s is prior to his arrival. He comes to Storrs from Cogan Station, Pa. and plays on the Montoursville Area High School team, as well as for Baseball U. Also for Montoursville, Dalena was a quarterback where he threw an 89 yard touchdown pass. Excelling as a multi-sport athlete in different positions cannot scream “utility” any louder, and UConn isn’t ready for how incredible Dalena’s arm is and will continue to be.  

Ryan Daniels 

When Daniels was 13, he originally committed to Stetson University but since then has gotten cold feet—quite literally, Storrs is a lot colder than DeLand—and will stay local for college. The Meriden native is hot after leading St. Paul Catholic High School to the Class S State Championship after an 18-1 record. He also boasts one of the top Perfect Game grades in his class at a 9. A star shortstop and overall utility infielder, Daniels can hit way out into the outfield and tallied 15 home runs this past spring before spending the summer in the Area Code Games as well as the Summer Rivalry Classic. With a time of 6.90-seconds for the 60-yard dash, Daniels is at the top 90.45 percentile and looks to be a full package for UConn.  

Gavin Greger 

Greger is a left-handed pitcher and an outfielder from Bristol, Conn. currently at Avon Old Farms High School. He has a very solid arm, and will likely be an outfielder at UConn because of his experience as a quarterback and a center back for Avon Old Farms football. His fastball speed is 85 mph, while his outfield velocity is 86 mph, which emphasizes this likelihood further. Playing on The Clubhouse CT, the top travel baseball organization in Connecticut and the second best in New England, Greger knows how to throw with a lot of power no matter where he is on the field. He also bats left-handed and hit more than his fair share of runs this summer while playing for The Clubhouse, and there’s no doubt he’ll do the same for the Huskies.  

J.J. Hood 

Hood is primarily a right-handed pitcher, but also serves as a first and a second baseman. As an infield utility player, he’ll be valuable in whatever position he plays, but likely will be pitching with his 90-mph fastball. Hood is from West Pittston, Pa. and pitches for Wyoming Area Secondary Center. He still has a whole senior season to play, and looks to ride the success of last season into 2022. Hood was named as the Times Leader Player of the Year after leading Wyoming Area to the first-ever district title and state championship appearance. Out of the 79 innings he pitched, he had 118 strikeouts and finished the season with a 2.04 ERA. Although he’s more of a fielder than a hitter, he did score six doubles and three home runs. Whether UConn will field Hood, have him hitting or a mixture of both, the Huskies can’t go wrong.  

Ryan Juliano 

The Bedford shortstop often plays as the extra hitter and certainly knows how to use a bat. Juliano’s a big RBI guy even when nobody else is on base, racking up quite the collection of home run balls. His fielding is good but overall, his strength is in hitting. During his 2020 summer season, he had a batting average of .267 and in addition to playing for Bedford High School in New Hampshire, Juliano is on the North East Baseball Rays’ lineup. At the end of the summer, the NEB Rays were ranked as the top team in New England, and the 20th team in the nation. Most recently, he played in New Hampshire’s Showcase League on NH Team Black. There, he propelled his team to win the Fall Classic Championship with his hits upward of 80 mph. Not only can Juliano hit, but he can do so when it matters, and UConn will have plenty of those moments for him. 

Drew Kron 

Andrew Kron, who goes by Drew, is a Connecticut local from Hebron attending Xavier High School— and excelling. He’s an outfielder and a catcher, but could have also committed to play football for UConn if he really wanted to after his performance as Xavier’s quarterback. Jim Penders and company gave him the go-ahead if he chose to pursue college football as well, but as of right now Kron has only committed to baseball. He’s been a stellar athlete from the beginning of his high school career, scoring 20 touchdowns and then five runs with six stolen bases as an underclassman. That seems to be Kron’s thing, stealing bases, as he played for CT Rivals and stole five bases while playing on that team this summer. Lucky for Kron, there are bases to steal at Elliot Ballpark.  

Levi McAllister 

As a catcher and third baseman who also hits the ball hard, McAllister brings a unique playing style to UConn. He comes from St. Mark’s in Southborough, MA but he’s originally from Bow, NH. In the New England Baseball Journal, McAllister was ranked as the sixth top prospect in the class of 2022. The hype follows him to his Perfect Game profile, where he has a grade of nine, another one of the highest grades in the class. His maximum barrel speed exceeds 75 mph and he has an exit velocity of 87 mph, with a short and fast swing. A member of the notable North East Baseball Rays and a selection for A Shot for Life Home Run Derby, McAllister has had several opportunities to prove to head coach Jim Penders why he should be a Husky, and it seems as though he’s gotten through.  

John McGowan 

The only player coming from Maryland, McGowan is a right-handed pitcher, as well as a first and third baseman. His throws are fast, but he has lots of room for growth with an 82-mph fastball and 76.5 mph changeup. He’s already on his way after the summer he had, playing for Dig In Baseball. In the University of Maryland Baltimore County Showcase, Dig In nearly swept the competition, with one game going 0-0. McGowan goes to Whitman High School in Bethesda, MD and during the 2020-21 season, he did have an ERA of 4.00. It’ll be interesting to see where UConn utilizes McGowan because he definitely has baseball experience and skills to offer, it’s just a matter of where the Huskies choose to focus on his potential.  

Kolby Pascarelli 

Pascarelli already had Tommy John surgery and since then, the left-handed pitcher has come back better than ever. He’s a Connecticut native from Durham and graduated from Coginchaug Regional High School before attending St. Thomas More School in Oakdale. At Coginchaug, he had a remarkable run, and the Shoreline Conference coaches voted him as the 2021 Player of the Year. This comes after he was hitting .448, which is impressive in itself. However, even more incredible is his 70 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings, with a 7-0 record and 1.35 ERA. These statistics are what led Coginchaug to its first state championship title in almost 60 years. Not for nothing, he’s also on the Boston Red Sox Scout Team. Pascarelli will join the Huskies in Fall 2022 after his year at St. Thomas More, perhaps with even better numbers. 

Noah Sorenson 

The Pennsylvanian shortstop is coming in hot from Montrose, going from home to first base in just over four seconds. The righty made the Perfect Game Preseason Underclass All American team two years in a row, 2020 and 2021. Sorenson plays for Scranton Preparatory and Northeast Pride National. He throws at 86 mph across the diamond, and he runs 10 yards in 1.71 seconds, about .05 faster than average for his class. According to Baseball Factory scouts, he has a fielding grade of 50 which is above average for other varsity high school baseball players. It takes into account Sorenson’s overall athleticism, lateral ability, hands and release. This score sets him up perfectly for his freshman year at UConn in Fall 2022.  

Ryan Vandewater 

This right-handed pitcher and outfielder can throw his fastest fastball over 91 mph, and averages at 86.7 mph. Vandewater pitches for Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. where he’s originally from. His spin rate is 2,222 rpm, which is average but on the upwards of exceeding a competitive 2,400 rpm, especially after the fall season he just had. Vandewater plays for Croton Bombers Baseball Club and had quite a remarkable run, pitching six innings and not giving up a single run during a game this past September. Back in June, he had nine strikeouts during a game. UConn definitely didn’t strike out with signing Vandewater, that’s for sure. 

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