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Starting Rotation Hitting Its Stride as UConn Baseball Surges

As conference play starts to heat up, the Huskies have won seven of eight and have the pitching staff to thank for it.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Going into the season, Jim Penders did not know who his Sunday starter would be. He had his ace, Tim Cate, for Friday and Wills Montgomerie on Saturdays but there were a few options for the third starter job.

He had an open contest between Doug Domnarski, Mason Feole, and Sam Nepiarsky. He also had the fortune of a four-game series to open the season, which allowed him to see both Feole and Domnarski in a starting role.

The freshman Feole beat out Domnarski and Nepiarsky to claim the Sunday role, but it took UConn a few more weeks to have its rotation at full strength.

Cate left his start against Texas after 3 2/3 innings with a shoulder spasm. He rehabbed for two weeks but struggled in his first start back against BYU, allowing four runs, three earned, in five innings in the altitude.

He missed his start against Seton Hall the following week due to a violation of team rules, again leaving UConn shorthanded on the mound. The Huskies had lost three of their last five games and allowed 47 runs—9.4 per game—over that stretch heading into the series with the Pirates.

Ronnie Rossomando and Domnarski combined to give the Huskies seven one-run innings of work in place of Cate. But over the weekend, the staff had control issues, walking 21 batters in three games. They got out of some jams and did a great job to allow just three runs, including a shutout on Sunday as the Huskies took two out of three in the weekend series. Still, the number of baserunners given away was concerning.

Last weekend, against East Carolina, the Huskies solved their control problems without sacrificing effectiveness in one of the bigger series of the season.

The Huskies had won four of five heading into that series, but had a losing streak before that and an RPI in the 70s. They were on the road for three games against the conference preseason favorite, a team they play six times this season which they are 7-34 all-time against, including a 1-5 mark in 2016.

The Huskies pitching staff allowed just three extra-base hits to East Carolina after allowing only two against Seton Hall, and cut down on walks significantly. Husky pitchers walked eight batters and allowed five runs, two more than the previous weekend to a far superior offense.

Cate, Montgomerie, and Feole had arguably their best starts of the season against East Carolina. They each threw seven innings, totaling 25 strikeouts to four walks while allowing just one earned run.

If the starting rotation can stay healthy and keep this mojo going, they will be a force to reckoned with throughout the remainder of the regular season and into the postseason.

The Huskies were they only American Athletic Conference team to sweep their opening series and have propelled themselves to 34th in RPI. One of 19 schools yet to play a home game, UConn has a 16-9 record heading into today’s matchup with the University of Hartford at J.O Christian Field.

First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. in the Huskies’ home opener.