UConn Baseball (3-1) started its first weekend strong with three straight wins, but could not complete the four-game sweep over UMass Lowell.
The first three games saw three strong starting pitching performances from Tim Cate, Wills Montgomerie and Mason Feole. The Huskies got a combined 19 1⁄3 innings from the trio, which allowed only three earned runs on 13 hits. They collectively struck out 29 and walked only five UMass Lowell batters.
Offensively, it was the newcomers that were a positive revelation.
Freshman shortstop Anthony Prato had the most complete weekend of the Huskies. He slashed .600/.706/1.000, all of which were team highs. He also notched six hits, trailing only a fellow newcomer in junior outfielder Isaac Feldstein. He showed power, notching a double and a home run, as well as speed. He was 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts and led the team in runs scored, with eight, and is tied with Feldstein for the team RBI lead at five.
The Huskies now set their sights on a weekend trip to Austin to meet the Texas Longhorns. To preview the three-game set, we talked to Jack Keyes of Burnt Orange Nation, our University of Texas counterparts on the SB Nation network.
The UConn Blog: It seemed like Texas struggled offensively in their four-game set with Rice, particularly in the pair of losses. Would you agree with that assessment?
Burnt Orange Nation: Honestly, Texas fans are so used to the team struggling offensively from the past fews years that I don't think the bats against Rice felt particularly anemic. That said, the 'Horns did not execute at the plate in the first and last games of the series, and relied on the Owls' pitching mistakes (walks, hit by pitches, etc.) to manufacture a lot of the teams' runs. I have hope that Texas' offense will be solid as the season progresses, especially since Texas showed some power against Rice with four homers.
TUCB: Was a split, even coming at home, a reasonable expectation for a series against a really good team like Rice?
BON: Yes, it was my and many fans' exact expectation for the team. It would've felt a lot better to take three of four, but the split will suffice.
TUCB: What is your biggest takeaway from the season so far?
BON: Positive takeaway: Texas has freshmen who can immediately make an impact. Freshman shortstop David Hamilton was a beast last weekend defensively, making some impressive scoops and showing off his speed. Blair Henley started on Saturday and recorded eight strikeouts and did not at all play like it was his collegiate debut.
Negative takeaway: I'm worried about Texas' depth in the bullpen. Though the pitching really only melted down for one inning in the final game against Rice, I'm just not sure head coach David Pierce has a lot of guys he feels super comfortable with coming out to the mound in the 6th of 7th inning of a tight game.
TUCB: Who should fans be looking out for out of the Longhorns’ position players?
BON: Kacy Clemens at first base. He was recruited primarily as a pitcher so fans were shocked when he all of the sudden broke out offensively in his junior year last season, but he's already proving that he's the real deal as a position player. He went 6-for-11 at the plate, walked three times, and had two homers to his name. He was even more clutch than his stats, as he was often the catalyst for Texas' few rallies.
Also be on the lookout for Patrick Mathis. He's pretty fast on the bases and has the most power on the team, but he just couldn't get it going last weekend, going 2-for-13.
TUCB: What will Coach Pierce’s weekend rotation be?
BON: Friday: Morgan Cooper, a very hyped up redshirt junior pitcher who battled Tommy John surgery a couple of seasons ago and is now hitting his stride.
Saturday: Kyle Johnston, a strikeout pitcher who battled against Rice and allowed only one run in six innings despite giving up seven hits and a walk. I've written ad nauseam about his command issues last year, but if he's locked in he's Texas' best pitcher.
Sunday: The aforementioned Blair Henley, Texas' biggest freshman talent on the mound who was drafted by the Yankees out of high school.
UConn and Texas get their series started at 5 p.m. on Friday, with Saturday’s game coming at 3 p.m. and Sunday’s matchup seeing a 1 p.m. first pitch. All three games will be on the Longhorn Network and WHUS 91.7 FM.