UConn Baseball was one of the first four teams left out of the NCAA Tournament in 2017. Specifically, they were the second team left out, behind only Miami (FL), who had made the tournament every year since 1973.
It left a sour taste in a lot of the players’ mouths, but they have moved onto summer baseball and some have been performing very well against a high level of competition.
In the Cape Cod League, rising junior outfielder John Toppa is 15th in the league with a .324 batting average as of July 14 and is enjoying his first experience on the Cape playing for Wareham.
“It’s been awesome so far. The competition has been really good,” he said after his July 8 game against Falmouth. “It’s the highest level of baseball I’ve ever played.”
During the collegiate season, scouts tend to blend in with the other people behind home plate and can look like teammates or opposing players charting pitches. When the calendar turns to summer over the Bourne or Sagamore Bridge, they come out in full force and are in a large horde in plain view behind home plate on field level, as most of the fields in the Cape Cod League are just high-end fields and are not normal stadiums.
“They’re not as out in the open as they are here. There are scouts here before we get here sometimes,” Toppa said. “It was a little nerve-wracking at first, but you get used to it.”
One of his UConn teammates, rising junior catcher Zac Susi, took last summer off from organized baseball and had similar things to say about the competition.
“Everybody who is up here is one of the best players at their school. There’s better depth in the pitching,” he said.
As a catcher, especially playing from February into July and August, it can be tough to keep weight on and stay strong throughout the year and Susi has been doing that so far in his sophomore campaign, hitting .308 in 15 games.
“It’s not easy to keep weight on, but I am trying to work out every day and keep the weight on as much as possible,” he said. “Hitting-wise, I’m just trying to keep a good mindset.”
Susi’s classmate and Cape League teammate, left-hander PJ Poulin is one of the hometown players for Bourne, as he lives approximately 25 minutes from his home field in Marion, Massachusetts.
“It’s great to be home with my family and obviously playing in the best league in the country is a dream come true,” he said.
It is not all fun and games, however.
“I’ve been working on my slider,” Poulin said. “I think it’s really coming along this summer and if I can keep working with that I can transfer that to UConn in the fall.”
Ronnie Rossomando will also be a junior next year and is the only one of the five players who are back on the Cape after playing in 2016.
“It’s a relaxed setting,” he told the Cape League rookies. “You’re going to feel at home right away and as long as you work hard, good things will come.”
Rossomando is working on his consistency in his second summer down the Cape. Some appearances for UConn in 2017 he was lights out but other days he could not find it.
“I’m trying to find some consistency,” he said. “I’m trying to get better every day.”