Baseball: Hook C to host Rutgers in first home series of season 

UConn Baseball starts off strong with a 7-3 win against UMass in this season’s home opener at Elliot Ballpark on Wednesday, Mar. 22, 2023. The Huskies will return this weekend on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Mar. 24 to 26 at home against Rutgers University. Photo by Izzi Barton/The Daily Campus

After winning 10 of their previous 12 matchups, the UConn baseball team will look to keep the good vibes rolling as they welcome the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to Storrs for a three-game series starting on Friday. 

After starting the season with a .500 record through their first six games, the Hook C has been tearing through their opponents with stellar performances on both sides of the ball. The team’s win streak began with a three-game sweep of Florida Atlantic before the squad took three-of-four in consecutive series against the University of Hawaii and San Diego State. The team also claimed a victory against UMass Amherst on Wednesday in what was Connecticut’s first game on its home grass at Elliot Ballpark. Dominic Freeberger and Luke Broadhurst led the offense as the former drove in three runs and the latter smacked a solo homer. Pitcher Garrett Coe received the win after starting and working through four innings of action. 

Freeberger has been the face of the UConn offense through the team’s first 18 games of the season. Entering the Rutgers series, the Baltimore native leads the Huskies in hits (28), batting average (.394), and runs batted in (21). In his first season with the Hook C after transferring over from UNC Asheville, the graduate student has excelled at the first base position and has shored up the middle portion of Connecticut’s lineup. He and teammate Ben Huber have combined to create an exceptional one-two punch as the “Albino Rhino” has been an extra-base machine to start the season. Huber, second on the Huskies with 24 hits, has whacked an impressive 12 doubles already and has compiled a team-leading 45 total bases. 

Though Connecticut has yet to officially announce their starters for this weekend, it’d be fair to assume that the three games will be speared by some combination of Ian Cooke, Andrew Sears and Jack Sullivan. Cooke, the perennial ace of the Husky staff, enters the series with a 4.94 earned run average and a win-loss record of 2-2. Sears, a lanky left-hander, has worked to the tune of a 5.29 ERA and has yet to receive a decision in any of his starts to begin the year. Sullivan, a sophomore, may be UConn’s best starting pitcher coming out of the gate: in four starts, the righty is 3-1 with a 3.80 ERA. All three starters have shown flashes of dominance in the early going as the Huskies hope to boast perhaps the best pitching staff in the Big East. 

At 12-8, Rutgers will not be a pushover of an opponent when they visit Storrs this weekend. Formerly a Big East team, the Scarlet Knights now participate in the Big Ten conference. The Huskies couldn’t be getting Rutgers at a worse time as, after a slow start to the campaign, the team enters this weekend winners of three straight games as well as nine of the last ten. Since the last time that the Scarlet Knights took the field, the team has steamrolled through Wagner, Georgia Southern, Kennesaw State, Mercer and Rider. 

The Rutgers offensive attack has been helmed by Trevor Cohen this season. A true freshman from Brigantine, New Jersey, the outfielder has a smooth approach from the left side of the plate and currently leads his team in batting average with a .381 mark. He ranks at or near the top of the Scarlet Knights in every major offensive statistic, including extra-base hits, slugging percentage, total bases, runs batted in, base hits and on-base percentage. Cohen will be a tough out at the plate, as the outfielder leads his team in total at-bats but is ninth on the team in strikeouts. 

Drew Conover and Jake Marshall will likely be tasked with starting the first two games against the Huskies. In five starts this season, Conover has compiled an ERA of 4.97 and a win-loss of 2-1 while also leading his program in strikeouts with 30. Marshall, meanwhile, is also 2-1 with an ERA of 3.20. It is not as clear who will start game three for Rutgers, though it will likely come from a list that includes Justin Sinibaldi, Christian Coppola and John Modugno, all of whom have started three games apiece. 

Originally scheduled with one game being played each day from Friday to Sunday, the upcoming series between UConn and Rutgers has been modified so that Saturday’s game two will be played on Friday. Subsequently, the programs will play a doubleheader on Friday before taking a breather on Saturday and wrapping up the series with Sunday’s finale. Action will take place at Elliot Ballpark in Storrs, Connecticut. First pitch for each game on Friday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. and 4:05 p.m., with Sunday’s game also set for a 4:05 p.m. start. All three games can be streamed live on UConn+ or fans can tune in to the live audio on MIXLR. 

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