UConn Baseball currently sits at 10 verbal commitments for the recruiting class of 2017. During the mid-November early signing period, seven of those made it official by signing their National Letter of Intent.
Four of the seven that signed are pitchers and there are two more hurlers who are currently verbally committed.
Coach Jim Penders has started to make inroads in Pennsylvania, with two commits in each of the 2017 and 2018 classes, including AJ Denny, from Stroudsburg. Denny is a left-handed pitcher who excels thanks to his control and pitch selection.
“I keep hitters off balance,” Denny said. “It might not be flashy, but I can compete and win.”
He throws a fastball, a 12-6 curveball, a slider and a change up.
Denny attended 2016 first round pick Anthony Kay’s start in New York against Columbia and liked what he saw.
“[Kay] has a great changeup. I just wanted to watch and learn from him”, he said.
Penders ventured out of the Northeast for Jarrod Melle, who will come to UConn from Lowell, Michigan, just outside Grand Rapids. He is listed at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds on Prep Baseball Report.
“I’m more of a power pitcher,” Melle said. “I like to pound the fastball inside.”
He currently has a two-pitch mix, a fastball that tops out at 88 mph and a slider. He also is starting to mix in a curveball. A right-handed thrower, Melle had Tommy John surgery in July and has started to throw recently.
Melle came to UConn because he wanted to do something different instead of taking Michigan, Michigan State or Toledo up on their offers.
“All the schools around here, it seemed that’s what everyone else was doing,” he said. “Why not go out and pick something else?”
Penders has done a great job historically of tapping the Massachusetts pipeline for important players, including MLB Draft picks Nick Ahmed (East Longmeadow), Bobby Melley (Barnstable) and Patrick Ruotolo (Peabody). Joseph Simeone, of Groton, is hoping to be the next in line after signing his NLI.
Simeone is also a right-handed pitcher who also throws hard. Perfect Game USA recorded a top fastball of 89 mph.
“I like to throw a lot of fastballs and attack hitters,” he said.
He plays for Groton-Dunstable Regional High School, helping his team to an undefeated 2016 season which ended with the Division 3 state championship. Simeone will also play summer ball for the Wachusett Dirt Dogs of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.
All three of the arms talked about the coaching staff as a big reason why they signed.
“The coaches are pretty much what sold me,” Melle said. “They set it up so that it was a three-day weekend with just me and the coaches, it made me feel wanted.”
Denny went to a camp and met pitching coach Joshua MacDonald.
“As soon as I met Coach McDonald I knew I wanted him to be my coach,” he said. “He doesn’t take anything too seriously but knows how to coach.”
Simeone echoed those sentiments about MacDonald.
“I really liked the coaching staff,” he said. “I really liked talking to [MacDonald] about pitching.”
The Huskies have a good start on 2018 and 2019 recruiting as well. They sit at eight verbal commits for 2018 and got their first for 2019 on November 19, when right-handed pitcher Andrew Marrero, of New Haven, verbally committed to UConn.
We are just over two months until UConn baseball gets back on the diamond. The Huskies will begin their 56-game regular season with a four-game set against UMass Lowell at the New York Mets’ facility in Port St. Lucie, Florida. First pitch for game one on the season is at 3:30 p.m on February 17.