UConn Baseball’s starting rotation has the potential to have what could be a great one-two punch in Tim Cate and Wills Montgomerie to go along with some great options when it comes to Sundays and midweek games.
That depth extends to the bullpen as well, as head coach Jim Penders has emphasized pitching during his time at UConn.
"That’s always been the backbone since I’ve been here as the head coach," Penders said. "We’ve always made it a priority to get the best pitching and develop the best pitching."
Closer Pat Ruotolo has gone on to the professional ranks and Devin Over has graduated, but there are some good pieces remaining and some freshmen coming in who could make an impact.
Sophomore Ronnie Rossomando made 12 appearances in his freshman season, including six starts. He throws hard, so allowing his arm to be uncorked for an inning or two at a time could be a benefit to both the Huskies and Rossomando.
"Ronnie Rossomando had a very good Cape Cod League season and he just had a live session in the barn yesterday that was lights out," Penders said. "If he pitches like he does indoors in our 40x80-foot building then he’d probably be the leading candidate to close."
This is welcome news for UConn, as Randy Polonia, who closed when Ruotolo couldn’t in 2016, is out until March with an arm issue.
Penders sees the race to get the ball in the ninth inning as a three-man race.
"We’ve got two other guys who have been pushing him in John Russell, who’s got a good breaking ball; he’s got swing-and-miss stuff," Penders said. "He’s got a plus breaking ball, he has a feel for the pitch. He knows how to hold runners, he’s very athletic off the mound.
"There’s another young guy named Jake Wallace who I really like a lot because he’s got a plus-plus slider, a breaking ball that he can use in almost any count and he’s got swing-and-miss stuff."
Russell allowed four runs on seven hits over 4 1⁄3 innings last season in five appearances last season while Wallace is a freshman from Methuen, Massachusetts.
"Jake Wallace is very good. He throws from a sidearm slot," catcher Zac Susi said. "He’s got a really good slider, righties have a really hard time picking it up and he does a really good job keeping guys off balance."
Susi also praised Russell, seeing an improvement from last season.
"There are guys like John Russell, who last year didn’t see the mound a lot but this year has been phenomenal," he said.
Penders also has some options in middle relief.
"You’ve got guys like PJ Poulin and CJ Dandenau, they’ve been going up against each other and doing a nice job in the preseason," he said. "Dan Rajkowski is a guy who I think are going to be surprised at how much he’s going to get the ball early on and I have a feeling he’s going to win a nice role for us."