Friday, March 19, 3 p.m.
Saturday, March 20, 2 p.m.
Sunday, March 21, noon
Where: Smithson Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Radio: FM 91.7 WHUS
Friday: RHP Ben Casparius (1-2, 3.16 ERA) vs. RHP Ian McCole (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Saturday: RHP Joe Simeone (0-2, 7.30 ERA) vs. LHP Luke Zimmerman (0-0, 16.20 ERA)
RHP Austin Peterson (1-1, 4.41 ERA) vs. LHP Ryan Devine (0-0, 23.62 ERA)
UConn baseball isn’t quite at the point where its season needs a lifeline, or even to the point where we need to keep an eagle eye on the RPI rankings when they start to come out. With UConn’s tremendously-strong non-conference schedule, their -9 run differential over 14 games should give them some leeway to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
With the team currently off to a 4-10 start, their worst since 2001 when it took them 17 games to get four wins, UConn baseball needs to perform in the last two non-conference series of the season if it wants to be in the conversation for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
The Huskies will get the chance with a three-game series this weekend against St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia. The Hawks play in the Atlantic 10 with frequent UConn opponents Fordham and Rhode Island, along with Davidson, who UConn faced at the Baseball at the Beach tournament earlier this year. They’ve had two winning seasons in the past 10 years.
St. Joseph’s started off their season just over a week ago, and they’ve won all four games played: a 12-3 thrashing of Towson and a series sweep of George Washington. Their offense has been driving them forward in the young season, with a team OPS of 1.049.
Nate Thomas is the Hawks’ star player in the middle of the order, a towering, left-handed first baseman with a big bat. He led the team in average, slugging, hits, and runs batted in, and he’s off to a fast start yet again. Through four games, he’s 7-for-16 with two homers, three doubles, and six RBI. Jake Artz and Brendan Hueth also return to patrol the outfield and hit in front of Thomas, with .333 and .400 batting averages respectively. Hueth is the team’s main base-stealing threat, with 24 bags on 27 attempts in 2019.
Sophomore shortstop Luca Trigiani has also had a nuclear start to the season, batting .389/.778/.429 with 12 RBI, along with his infield partner Liam Bendo, who is an on-base machine. Catcher Andrew Cossetti hits cleanup, looking to replicate his 2019 season where he hit .289 with 42 runs batted in.
Offense hasn’t been an issue for St. Joseph so far, but pitching has been another story. The rotation is still in search of a replacement for last year’s ace Jordan DiValerio, who left to join the Boston Red Sox via undrafted free agency. Their Friday night starter, Hayden Sieg, is a reliever by trade, with one start against George Washington where he went 4.0 innings, allowing one run and one hit. Their two other starters last weekend, Ryan Devin and Luke Zimmerman got rocked, allowing a combined 15 hits and 13 runs through 5.0 innings.
What to watch for
- Kyler Fedko got his mojo back last weekend, raising his batting average from .192 to .378 overnight, now leading the team. He looks more like a player who was named preseason Big East player of the year, and that was against a College World Series-quality pitching staff. With his new old swing, he’ll look to tee off on a St. Joseph’s pitching staff that has had their struggles early in the season.
- UConn’s bullpen didn’t have their best showing in Lubbock; 18 of Texas Tech’s 38 runs last weekend were scored in the 7th inning or later. St. Joseph’s lineup might not have the overall quality that the Red Raiders possess, but they’re clearly seeing the ball well as illustrated by their 12-3, 13-12, and 16-14 wins early in the season. It won’t be a walk in the park, and UConn will have to limit runs much better than they did against Texas Tech if they want to right the ship.
- Will Reggie Crawford get even better now that he can actually see the ball? Head coach Jim Penders let slip last weekend that UConn’s giant first baseman only recently got fitted for contact lenses, and his early exit from the Texas Tech series happened because his only pair fell out during the game. If that’s true, if Crawford needed contacts all last year and still was able to slug .558, I shudder to think the version of him we’ll get now that his vision is corrected.