While students shelter from the snowy weather that has recently hit Storrs, the UConn baseball team will throw on their flip-flops for a business trip down in Florida, where they will take on the Florida Atlantic Owls for three games starting on Friday.
After making a stop in Berkeley, California for a couple of games last weekend, Hook C’s next series in Boca Raton, Florida will be the final destination on their season-opening road trip. After going 2-2 to start the season two weeks ago against Ohio State, the Huskies once again split their West Coast series trip: the team rallied from down three runs in the ninth inning to force extras before claiming a hard-earned 11-10 win over Cal Poly on Friday but succumbed to the University of California by a 4-2 final score on Saturday, opening the season with a 3-3 record.
Korey Morton has been a force for Connecticut in the early portion of the season. In Friday’s game against Cal Poly, the junior tallied three total hits, including a two-run long ball to center field in the seventh inning. Through UConn’s first six matchups, Morton is batting .333 (8-for-24) and has been an extra-base machine, recording three doubles, one triple and two homers. His 19 total bases are seven more than the second-highest total on his team.
Mashing alongside Morton in UConn’s lineup has been graduate student Dominic Freeberger. A transfer from UNC Asheville, Freeberger has opened the season with a .304 (7-for-23) batting average through six games. In the Cal Poly game, the third baseman tallied two hits and two runs batted in before whacking another RBI hit in Saturday’s contest versus California. His nine runs batted in led Connecticut, and the infielder will continue to see run-producing opportunities batting in the middle of the Huskies’ lineup.
Hook C has yet to officially announce the starters for their three upcoming contests against Florida Atlantic, though it’s safe to assume that Andrew Sears will be given the nod after his previously scheduled start against the Golden Bears on Sunday was scratched due to rain. In his first start against Ohio State a couple of weeks ago, the southpaw did a good job silencing the Buckeyes’ bats, navigating through five innings and allowing two runs on four hits, including four strikeouts. After Sears, UConn should turn back to the top two arms in their rotation in Ian Cooke and Jack Sullivan. The Big East Preseason Pitcher of the Year, Cooke allowed six runs (four earned) over five innings against Cal Poly, striking out nine. In two games, the righty is 0-1 with a 5.73 earned run average and has struck out 17 batters in 11.0 innings. Sullivan opened for UConn against the University of California on Saturday, working through 4.1 innings and allowing four runs on four hits and four walks. He also struck out four batters. In the new season, the sophomore is 1-1 with a 5.59 ERA.
Connecticut will have its hands full taking on a Florida Atlantic squad that has been rolling in the early part of the season. In eight games, the Owls are 7-1, including a 6-5 victory over No. 22 Miami (Fla.) on Tuesday, the team’s first win over a ranked opponent since May 2021. FAU has almost doubled the scoring output of their opponents, outscoring the opposition 73-38 on the year. They’ve received contributions up and down the roster in every aspect of the game: the Owls’ offense is currently batting an impressive .317 as a team while the pitching staff has compiled a combined ERA of 2.55.
The Owls have a true threat in the middle of the lineup in the form of first baseman Nolan Schanuel. The Conference USA Preseason Hitter of the Year, Schanuel has had a storied college career in two years with Florida Atlantic: as a freshman in 2021, he ranked at the top of the conference leaderboard in nearly every hitting category and was named Freshman All-America by Collegiate Baseball and by Perfect Game, ABCA/Rawlings Second Team All-Region, and Second Team All-C-USA. He was named a Preseason All-American by Perfect Game/Rawlings for his sophomore year in 2022 and led the Owls with a .369 average that included 83 hits, and a 1.135 OPS. He also smashed 16 homers and drove in 56 runs. The start of the new season has proven to be no obstacle for the junior, who is slashing a robust .419 BA with three homers, two doubles, a triple and 10 RBIs in the Owls’ first eight games of the year.
Florida Atlantic currently has five players batting over .300 on the season, with four of those players batting over .370: Schanuel, Jackson Ross (.394), John Schroeder (.391), Dylan Goldstein (.371) and Christian Adams (.333). All five have combined to produce a majority of the Owls’ runs this season as each has already driven in 10 or more runs while whacking extra-base hits regularly. Already, Ross has hit four homers and four doubles, Schroeder has two homers and five doubles, Goldstein has one homers and three doubles, and Adams has three homers and one double.
FAU is likely to roll out a starting rotation of Evan Waterbor, Jacob Josey and Hunter Cooley against UConn. All three arms combine to give the Owls quite the formidable trio of starters. Waterbor started against Miami and will likely be given the assignment for Sunday’s series finale. In that game, he navigated through five innings of work and allowed the Hurricanes to plate two runs (one earned) on four hits while striking out four. The senior has been great in two starts this year, going 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 10 Ks in 10 innings. Josey was not charged with an earned run in his last outing against USF and struck out five batters over 4.2 innings. In two starts, the junior is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA. Cooley was credited with a quality start in his last appearance, also against USF. Although the lefty allowed five runs to score across six innings of work, only two of those runs were earned and he compiled six Ks along the way. On the year, Cooley has tallied a 1-1 record with a 2.92 ERA; his 12.1 innings pitched and 11 strikeouts both lead Florida Atlantic. Nicholas Del Prado could also see a start against Connecticut after starting two games earlier in the season.
Hook C’s three game set versus the Owls is set to take place from Friday to Sunday at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 4 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday. The games can be streamed live on the FAUSports.TV website or fans can tune into the live audio on MIXLR.