In a rubber match against the Xavier Musketeers, the then-No. 20 UConn baseball team hit two two-run jacks that flipped a two-run deficit into a two-run advantage, silenced the home crowd and helped steal the series. By taking two out of three games, UConn not only proved they were one of the best teams in the Big East Conference, but unofficially became one of the hottest in college baseball, with 17 wins in their last 22 games.
The series win propelled the Hook C five spots to 15th in the D1 Baseball polls, which tentatively puts them in a position to host an NCAA Regional if the season ended today. As the target on their back grows, Connecticut’s competition does not get any easier as they battle two Beantown foes in the Northeastern Huskies and the No. 20 Boston College Eagles.
UConn bested the Musketeers in a highly anticipated conference series behind their offense, which scored 26 runs across three games. Big East Weekly Honor Roll selection Ben Huber had one of his best weekends in a Hook C uniform against Xavier, hitting a home run in every game while recording six RBIs. Dominic Freeberger has also done his share at the plate, recording a .357 batting average with 51 hits and a 1.150 OPS while batting one spot ahead of Huber in the lineup. Combine that with Jake Studley and Luke Broadhurst, two graduate students who each recorded five hits in three games, and Connecticut has a treacherous heart of the order.
Expect Garrett Coe, who took the loss in the second game against the Musketeers, on the bump for the Huskies’ first Boston clash. Despite the loss, the junior southpaw should bounce back and lower his 5.64 ERA given his previous midweek start against the Bryant Bulldogs. Head coach Jim Penders used nine different relievers over the weekend, but depending on the bullpen situation against Northeastern, expect Penders to turn to either Thomas Ellisen or Jude Abbadessa to start against BC. Ellisen started one other game this season, going three innings against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors in early March, while Abbadessa last pitched on April 10 against the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils, throwing five pitches and recording one out.
Despite not being ranked in any polls, Northeastern (28-7, 10-5 CAA) should not be taken lightly as they upset then-No. 16 BC at home 6-2 on March 21 and are coming off a series win against the Stony Brook Seawolves. In addition to winning seven out of their last nine CAA contests, Northeastern nearly rallied against the Boston Red Sox in an exhibition in late February, losing by two runs after allowing five in the first inning.
Northeastern leads the Colonial Athletic Association in batting average, hits and home runs, and as a result, seven players are batting over .300. Five of those seven sluggers have an OPS greater than 1.000, but despite several upper division undergraduates, such as Tyler MacGregor and Alex Lane (1.114 OPS each), making up a portion of that list, first-year Cam Maldonado has been the offense’s top weapon. The Wolcott, Connecticut, native is hitting .379 with 44 hits and 25 RBIs, but the first-year outfielder also succeeds because of his speed. Maldonado has almost one out of every five of Northeastern’s 89 steals, which leads the league, while Mike Sirota and Danny Crossen make up another 27% combined.
As this is Northeastern’s lone midweek game, expect them to turn to Jake Gigliotti. The redshirt junior recorded two outs on April 16 against the Seawolves, but is looking to improve on his previous start, where he allowed four runs in four innings against the UMass-Amherst Minutemen. Northeastern also has a decent bullpen led by Griffin Young, who leads the team with six saves in 16 appearances. The graduate righty pitched 5.1 innings in two appearances last week, but his 1.19 ERA will be trouble for any hitter he faces.
Not even 24 hours later, the Hook C ships up to Brighton looking for revenge against the Eagles (24-11, 9-9 ACC), who lost two out of three against the unranked Duke Blue Devils at home and have lost five out of their last six ACC contests. When these two teams met in Storrs on March 28, Boston College’s bullpen limited UConn to one run in their final four innings, preventing a comeback and securing a 6-3 road victory.
Patrick Roche had the best day at the plate in that game, going 2-3 and scoring twice, but the junior infielder has gotten better since with two three-hit performances. Batting .296 on the season, Roche is tied for second on the team in hits at 37 with Travis Honeyman and Joe Vetrano, with the former leading the team in doubles and the latter leading the team in home runs. BC has one hitter batting over .300 in Barry Walsh, but his 40 hits are not the only reason why he is the team’s leadoff hitter, as he is 9-10 in stolen base attempts, sharing the honor with Cameron Leary.
AJ Colarusso took the bump in the team’s meeting in Storrs, surrendering just two hits in three shutout innings. Expect him to get the nod after his last two appearances were starts in midweek games. The first-year lefty can shut down hitters, despite what his 9.18 ERA says, but the Eagles have also succeeded because of their bullpen. Andrew Roman’s eight saves, one of which he picked up against the Huskies, are tied for second in the ACC, and his miniscule 0.88 ERA makes it almost impossible to score a run against the graduate righty.
First pitch at Elliot Ballpark against Northeastern is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. on UConn+, while their matchup against the Eagles the next day is set for 5:30 p.m. on ACC Network Extra. Both games will also be broadcast on MIXLR.