Baseball: No. 25 UConn takes on pair of NEC foes 

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The UConn Baseball team defeats Bryant University 9-1 at Elliot Ballpark. The Huskies will face URI next in a three-game series this weekend. Photo by Julie Spillane / The Daily Campus.

After a quick weekend trip out to Kent, Ohio to take on the Kent State University Golden Flashes, HookC is back home to take on a pair of NEC teams this week, taking on in-state rival Central Connecticut on Tuesday and Merrimack on Wednesday. 

The Huskies (19-7) are currently coming off of a loss, dropping just the last game of the series to the Golden Flashes by a score of 5-4. Each matchup between the two teams were hard-fought, as they all were decided by two runs or less and with the Saturday game going into overtime. Expect Connecticut to bring that same intensity into their contests this week. 

While starters aren’t officially announced for this week, based on head coach Jim Penders’ semi-consistent four-man rotation, it’s projected that Cole Chudoba will take the hill in Tuesday’s game, while Austin Peterson will start on the mound on Wednesday. 

Chudoba has been solid for UConn thus far, earning an ERA of 2.95 in just over 18 innings through nine appearances. In his last time starting he went just 4.2 innings, allowing eight hits and three runs in a loss to Boston College. Look for Chudoba to redeem himself against the Blue Devils. 

Peterson, the team’s ace, has the lowest ERA on the team amongst consistent starters with 2.78. The senior boasts a perfect 5-0 record and has a whopping 70 strikeouts in his 45.1 innings pitched. Peterson’s last appearance was as solid as always, as he went eight full innings, allowing just three runs on five hits and no walks. If everyone pitches when projected, the Warriors will have a tough time on Wednesday. 

UConn is led at the plate by Erik Stock, who has a team-best slash of .402/.453/.654, yielding an OPS of 1.107. It’s not just Stock, though, as five of the Huskies’ starting eight position players boast an OPS of over .900: Stock, Bryan Padilla, Ben Huber, T.C. Simmons and Casey Dana. There are a few reasons why HookC can potentially be 21-7 heading into their first weekend of Big East play, and the power bats and patience at the plate are among them. 

Central Connecticut is having a solid year thus far, holding ownership of an 11-7 record. They recently took the last two out of three of their last series, a weekend clash with Bryant.  

The Blue Devils’ rotation is very erratic, with no real patterns or trends. The last time they had a game mid-week, Central Connecticut opted for a bullpen day, with seven pitchers entering. No one player got more than two full innings, and Jack Kelley led the charge that day in the loss to Fairfield. Kelley has yet to allow an earned run this season, pitching six innings and allowing three hits. If he starts against UConn, he will try to continue to be a force in the early parts of bullpen days. 

At the plate, the Blue Devils are led by junior infielder Dan Covino, who is slashing .364/.469/.621 in 66 at bats this year. In his last two games, he’s gone 2-for-7 with three runs, four RBIs and a home run. 

Merrimack (8-14-1) has had a tough start to the season, as the team has only won two series all year. However, four of their losses came against a very talented Texas Tech team. The Warriors are currently coming off of a series loss to LIU. 

Like Central Connecticut, Merrimack’s starting rotation is a bit of a puzzler. Mainly, the Warriors have sent out two pitchers, Cedric Gillette and Wyatt Villella, who have combined for 12 starts this season. In 59.2 total innings, the duo has a combined ERA over 6.0 and a WHIP over 1.5. If either of these guys takes the hill, the UConn lineup should be ready to do some damage. 

The Warriors are led at the plate by infielder Alex Haba and outfielder Michael Golankiewicz, who boast OPS’s of .960 and 1.010, respectively. Among consistent starters, no other player on the team has a mark higher than .766. If real damage is going to happen from this Merrimack lineup, it would be from this duo. 

Both the Tuesday and Wednesday games will be played at Elliot Ballpark at 3:05 p.m. They will be broadcast live on FloSports and Mixlr, with the Tuesday game also broadcast on ESPN 97.9 Radio. 

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