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Preview: UConn baseball visits Cincinnati

The Huskies have winning records in their last three weekends.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn baseball is rolling. The Huskies are 5-1-1 in their last seven games, including taking two of three from Wichita State on the road, anchored by a doubleheader win on Friday. They’re ranked No. 9 in RPI as of April 19 and are just a half game back of a three-way tie for first place in the American Athletic Conference as the fifth weekend of conference play begins.

American Athletic Conference Baseball Standings

Team Record Games Back RPI (NCAA- 4/19)
Team Record Games Back RPI (NCAA- 4/19)
Cincinnati 7-5 --- 154
Houston 7-5 --- 116
USF 7-5 --- 26
East Carolina 5-4 1/2 7
UConn 5-4 1/2 9
UCF 6-6 1 55
Tulane 6-6 1 107
Wichita State 4-5 1 1/2 13
Memphis 1-8 4 1/2 214

Now that the Shockers have joined the league, the conference will revert back to leaving the ninth-place squad out of the tournament, which is currently Memphis.

The Huskies could take a share of first place with a series win this weekend against Cincinnati, one of the teams occupying first place.

The Bearcats (18-17, 7-5) have beaten the teams they’re supposed to beat with some solid wins mixed in to go along with uneven performances against the better teams they have played. They own a 15-8 record against RPI sub-100 teams, but they are just 3-9 against the top-100.

In their best non-conference series, on the road against Sam Houston State and at home against Tennessee, Cincinnati was 0-6 and their only top-100 wins came in a split doubleheader against San Diego on opening weekend, a midweek game with Indiana and a Sunday series finale against UCF.

The Bearcats have played the four worst RPI teams in the conference other than themselves and the Huskies would do well to treat this series like they did last year, taking two of three at home.

Offensively, Cincinnati relies on Manny Rodriguez (.319 AVG/.387 OBP/.622 SLG) and Kyle Mottice (.312/.415/.399). The pair are top-two in batting average, with Mottice pacing the Bearcats in on-base percentage, while Rodriguez is the slugging percentage leader. Connor McVey (.248/.379/.372) joins Rodriguez as the only players with 20 RBI.

Rodriguez and Mottice are the only .300 hitters on a team that slashes .250/.350/.386, which is 229th, 195th and 142nd out of 296 Division I teams.

Tim Cate (3-4, 3.70 ERA) remains out with injury and Chase Gardner (3-1, 3.72) will make the trip but is questionable with a bone bruise after taking a line drive against Wichita State, so Mason Feole (5-0, 2.96) will start on Friday, followed by Colby Dunlop (2-1, 2.51). Sunday’s starter is to be announced.

As a staff, they have a 4.31 ERA, which is 106th in the country, to go along with a .259 batting average against. The Huskies are 50th in strikeouts per nine innings (9.1) and 196th with 4.5 walks per nine.

On the other side, catcher Zac Susi (.319/.404/.387) continues to roll, reaching base in 23-straight games and recording a hit in seven. Right fielder Isaac Feldstein (.282/.372/.597) and second baseman Christian Fedko (.272/.336/.350) are right behind him, with a 15-game reached base streak each.

The team slashes .277/.355/.398, which is 99th, 182nd and 127th in NCAA.

The Huskies’ bats will be contending with J.T. Perez (3-3, 2.84) on Friday, Nathan Kroger (1-2, 3.86) on Saturday and Cam Alldred (3-2, 4.10) in Sunday’s finale.

The Bearcats have a 3.80 team ERA (65th) and allow batters to hit .247 against them. Cincinnati strikes out 7.9 batters per nine innings (163rd) and walks 3.5 more per nine (48th).

UConn and Cincinnati begin their series at Marge Schott Stadium on Friday at 6 p.m., with Saturday’s game at 4 p.m. Sunday’s finale is at 1 p.m.