As we saw in UConn's loss to Hartford a few weeks back, midweek games against regional opponents can be difficult. Typically, less experienced starters are on the hill, and you're facing teams who are chomping at the bit to go against the best baseball program in New England. This is problematic because losing at home to a team with an RPI like UMass-Amherst (190), or UMass-Lowell (245), can seriously hurt the Huskies (31).
However, when you have talented veteran position players like UConn does, things tend to go smoother. Led by Vinny Siena, the UConn offense exploded for 30 runs on 36 hits over the two games to complete the UMass sweep.
"Three veterans really answered the call," Head Coach Jim Penders said after Wednesday's 13-2 win over UMass-Amherst. "Bobby Melley had a two out RBI, Blake Davey had a two out RBI and Max McDowell had a two out RBI, and that made it okay for everybody to loosen up."
On Wednesday, the group was led by Bobby Melley, who was back in the three-hole and didn't disappoint going 4-4 with four RBI, three runs, and his first home run of the season.
After the game Penders said, "He looks like our three-hitter now. He hasn't the whole year, but he's looking like our three-hitter now."
The pitching was sharp as well, with Andrew Zapata (4-0) picking up the win in seven innings of work, giving up two runs on five hits and no walks while striking out four.
Will Montgomerie (3-1) managed to top Zapata's performance the next day by taking a no hitter into the sixth inning in a 17-2 win over UMass-Lowell. The freshman ended up going six and two-thirds innings, giving up one run on three hits and two walks while registering six strikeouts with the help of his curveball, which buckled the knees of River Hawks hitters on half of his strikeouts.
Siena led the way with a 3-6 day at the plate that featured a double, a home run that was still rising as it cleared the left field fence, and five RBI.
Joining Siena in the home run club was Jon Testani, who hit an absolute bomb to left that easily cleared the shrubbery beyond the left field fence at J.O. Christian Field.
What it Means
UConn took care of business. Despite coming out a little flat against UMass-Amherst, this went just as expected. Everybody hit, the midweek starters are in a groove, and UConn is now 9-1 against New England opponents. The offense has reached double digit runs in all nine of the wins.
On top of that, depth guys had opportunities to play and impressed. Freshman Connor Buckley was 1-1 with two RBI and a sacrifice fly over the two games, fellow freshman Troy Stefanski went 2-2 with a two run double, and sophomore Aaron Hill went 4-8 with five runs scored while playing shortstop for the injured Bryan Daniello.
While the midweek sweep gives the team momentum, the real test starts tomorrow. Memphis (27-12, 7-5 AAC) travels to Storrs tied for second in the AAC with Houston. The Tigers are one game behind USF for the conference lead, and one game ahead of UConn and ECU. After letting the series slip against the Pirates last week, the Huskies have an opportunity to put themselves in a really nice position with just three conference series left after this weekend.
As always, admission is free at J.O. Christian Field. For those that can't make it but want to listen as the team pushes for a regular season title, you can catch the game on 91.7 FM, or WHUS.org.
UConn Baseball Series vs. Memphis
Friday - 3:00 p.m.
Saturday - 1:00 p.m.
Sunday - 1:00 p.m.