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Preview: No. 23 UConn baseball travels to Memphis during commencement

The Huskies will be away from home on Commencement Weekend for the first time in recent memory.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

No. 23 UConn baseball moved up one spot in the coaches’ poll from No. 24 after a 3-1 week that included another conference series win, this one coming over Tulane. The Huskies sit two-and-a-half games behind conference leader Houston, who has been surging as of late.

American Athletic Conference Baseball Standings

Team Record Games Back RPI (NCAA- 4/19)
Team Record Games Back RPI (NCAA- 4/19)
Houston 13-5 --- 57
USF 11-7 2 28
UConn 9-6 2 1/2 12
East Carolina 8-7 3 1/2 17
Cincinnati 8-7 3 1/2 133
UCF 9-9 4 37
Tulane 7-8 4 1/2 75
Wichita State 5-10 6 1/2 18
Memphis 2-13 9 1/2 188

Since USF took two of three from the Huskies on March 23-25, UConn is 14-4-1, gaining the wins necessary to have an RPI high enough to host a regional.

Catcher Zac Susi (.309 AVG/.391 OBP/.382 SLG) has been a huge part of keeping the team moving forward as he owns a 28-game reached base streak and saw his 11-game hitting streak snapped in Sunday’s win. Center fielder Troy Stefanski (.318/.344/.468) leads the team in batting average, in no small part due to his team-high 13-game hit streak.

The pair look to lead the Huskies to their sixth consecutive winning weekend against the weakest team in the conference, Memphis.

The Tigers (15-30, 2-13) played a strong schedule but have struggled with it, as they are 4-13 against the RPI top 50 and 6-25 against the top 150.

Memphis’ only conference wins have come against UCF at home and USF on the road, suffering sweeps at the hands of East Carolina, Cincinnati and Houston.

Like UConn, the Tigers had the week off for finals and are 2-2 in their last four, after a midweek victory over Murray State on April 24 combined with a 1-2 weekend against USF in Tampa.

They have not been getting much from their offense, as Tyler Webb (.288/.362/.412) and Cale Hennemann (.283/.391/.349) are the only regulars to own a batting average above .275. Alec Trela (.230/.349/.404) leads the team with six home runs.

As a team, they slash .236/.328/.329, which is 279th, 276th and 268th, respectively, out of 297 teams in Division I.

Mason Feole (6-1, 2.59 ERA) will be facing those hitters on Friday, followed by Chase Gardner (3-2, 3.96) on Saturday, with Sunday’s starter to be announced. Candidates to make that start include Jeff Kersten (2-1, 4.05) and Colby Dunlop (2-1, 5.79).

As a staff, UConn has a .253 batting average against with a 4.22 ERA (99th). They strike out 9.4 batters per nine innings (28th) and walk 4.4 batters per nine innings (179th).

This is a mirror image of what Memphis is doing on the mound. Their Friday starter is to be announced, with Jonathan Bowlan (2-6, 2.78) pitching Saturday and Hunter Smith (2-1, 2.33) will throw in the finale, making just his second start. He is also the Tigers’ only pitcher with multiple saves.

Batters hit .264 against Memphis pitching and they allow a 4.30 ERA which is 106th in the country. Like UConn, Tigers’ pitching excels at striking batters out, with a 31st-ranked 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings, but have a much better walks per nine innings mark, at 3.9 (109th).

They will be contending with a Huskies’ offense that slashes .280/.359/.406. Those are 89th, 167th and 108th in the nation.

First pitch between UConn and Memphis on Friday is at 7:30 p.m., followed by 3 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday, all at FedEx Field. The games can be heard on 91.7 WHUS.