Last season, Keith Krueger forced himself into the centerfield spot over Troy Stefanski due to Stefanksi’s offensive struggles. With Krueger now gone, the Huskies still have some returning depth pieces and a new face, and UConn baseball will be looking to their outfield for some offensive firepower.
Junior John Toppa suffered an arm injury during fall practice but is now at full strength and was also voted a captain.
“The arm’s great,” Toppa said. “I forget it happened sometimes.”
Toppa hit .267 in 2017 after missing the first few weeks of the season due to injury, but had a great summer for Wareham of the Cape Cod League, hitting .281 in one of the best amateur leagues in America.
Stefanski, at least to begin the year, will likely be playing in centerfield. He hit .222 in 50 games, 31 of which were starts in 2017 for the Huskies, but rebounded offensively for Martha’s Vineyard of the Futures League, where he hit .295 and was named an all-star.
“He can play a good centerfield,” head coach Jim Penders said. “He’s not a burner but he gets excellent jumps. He has a strong throwing arm.”
He will be competing for innings with Michael Woodworth and Chris Winkel anchoring the outfield.
In right field, Isaac Feldstein suffered through knee injuries that would limit his mobility, but was the Huskies’ biggest power threat in 2017. He led the team with 17 doubles and hit seven home runs, the only UConn batter to hit more than two.
“He can be a good outfielder if he’s healthy. He’s back to being healthy so he can anchor right field if Winkel is at first,” Penders said.
Depth-wise, Anthony Nucerino — who did not appear in a game last year — and Ben Maycock, who was a late cut in 2017, will be on the bench for Penders to use.
Nucerino and Maycock both had strong summers, with Nucerino returning home to New York to play for Elmira in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League hitting .270 with 15 walks and 18 strikeouts.
Maycock played for Bristol in the Futures League and hit .289. He was tied for third on the team in home runs with three.
“There’s some versatility in the outfield,” Penders said.
Toppa has lots of power to the gaps and with speed can turn long singles into doubles, while Feldstein has the most raw power on the team. The outfield will have an important role to play in whether the offense can consistently score runs or will struggle at times.