Baseball is back. On Friday, UConn Baseball begins a four-game series with UMass Lowell at the New York Mets spring training facility in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
The River Hawks, typically a mid-week opponent, hail from the America East Conference. They had a 20-32 record last season, going 5-19 in conference play and were not eligible to participate in the postseason due to being in the four-year transition process from Division II to Division I.
The two teams played on April 20 last year at LeLacheur Park in Lowell, Massachusetts. UConn earned a 4-2 win with Jack Riley, who later transferred from UConn to UMass Lowell, getting credit for the victory.
The River Hawks’ top returning hitter is sophomore Steve Passatempo, who hit .270/.361/.481 as a freshman. He led the team in hits, home runs and slugging percentage, was second in batting average, and third in on-base percentage in 2016.
Junior Ben Prado is the only other retuning position player to hit above .250 in 2016. He is a soft-hitting infielder, slashing .252/.326/.264 in 50 games, 48 of which were starts.
New to the River Hawks is Colby Maiola, a junior college transfer from Northern Essex Community College. He was named the Division 3 Junior College Player of the Year by the ABCA and he led the country with a .932 slugging percentage as part of a .453/.587/.932 line.
The entire weekend rotation will also return for the River Hawks in Nick Kuzla, Andrew Ryan, and Steve Xirinachs.
Ryan made 12 starts and posted a 3-7 record in 2016. He had an ERA of 4.11, a batting average against of .263.
Kuzla had 13 starts, including one complete game last year. He had an ERA of 5.88, a BAA of .292 and had the fewest walks allowed of the three starters (28).
Xirinachs started 13 games, pitching 61 innings, including three complete games. His record was 1-9 in 2016, with an ERA of 4.28 and a rotation-best .258 BAA.
Head coach Jim Penders said the starting rotation will be Tim Cate on Friday, Wills Montgomerie and Mason Feole splitting the doubleheader on Saturday, and Doug Domnarski finishing it up on Sunday.
UConn and UMass Lowell will begin their series at 3 p.m. on Friday, followed by a doubleheader on Saturday starting at 11 a.m. The series will finish at 11 a.m. on Sunday.