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UConn Baseball Confident Heading into NCAA Tournament

The Huskies have a tough regional ahead, but they have proven they are up to the task

Photos: UMass Minutemen @ UConn Huskies Baseball - 5/10/16 Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

The UConn Huskies are one of the hottest teams in the country. They closed the regular season winning nine games in a row, including two weekends of obliteration, first against Central Florida and then South Florida and also a come-from-behind victory at Northeastern.

In the conference tournament, they went 4-1, increasing the winning streak to 11 before losing to Memphis, 9-5. In a do-or-die second semifinal, which was 45 minutes after the completion of the loss, the Huskies came back.

Wills Montgomerie made a great start and Pat Ruotolo finished the shutout for a 5-0 victory. UConn went on to win the American Athletic Conference final over Houston, 7-2. The Huskies had a 4-2 lead going into the top of the ninth and scored three runs to put the Cougars away.

"The championship game, for sure, was the biggest game I've ever played in," Willy Yahn, a sophomore third baseman, said. "To be able to win and represent UConn that way on television was a great experience."

Over the 14 game streak the Huskies have put together, the offense has been scoring 7.3 runs per game, scoring over 10 runs three times, with a high of 15.

"The offense has been phenomenal," Yahn said. "Coach Hourgian always says 'there's never an easy out, always make every out as tough as possible. We haven't been striking out that often, either, which has been really good."

With the AAC Tournament crown and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament that comes with it, UConn was placed in the Gainesville regional as the three seed. The Huskies' first game is against two seed Georgia Tech. Bethune-Cookman, the MEAC champion, is the fourth seed. Florida is hosting as the top seed and are also the top overall seed in the field of 64.

The Huskies are not afraid of a potential match up with arguably the best team in the country, however.

"We're going to try and take care of the little things and we believe if we do that, the big things will take care of themselves," Yahn said. "We're going to go down there, play the UConn baseball brand and hopefully that'll be enough to get us to Supers."

Bryan Daniello, was arguably the offensive MVP for the Huskies during the AAC Tournament, hitting .684 (13-19) with six RBI, four doubles and three stolen bases, in addition to being a newly-elected captain. He talked about the upcoming regional.

"We're excited, it's going to be a tough task," Daniello, a senior shortstop, said. "Georgia Tech is a great team, Florida is a good team, even Bethune-Cookman, they're a really good four seed. It's a tough task, but we're excited for it.

"If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best."

Head Coach Jim Penders believes strongly in the spirit of this UConn team.

"They still fight. That's been true all year long." He said. "We pulled our starting catcher knowing that we were probably going to play another game and they still didn't give in. They've fought all year and I expect them to keep doing that if we're going to make it to Omaha."

UConn's first game will be against Georgia Tech on Friday at 1 p.m. on ESPN 3. Tim Cate will get the start for the Huskies.