Friday, March 26, 3 p.m.
Saturday, March 27, 1 p.m.
Sunday, March 28, noon
Where: Elliot Ballpark (Friday and Saturday)
Kingston, Rhode Island (Sunday)
Radio: FM 91.7 WHUS
Friday: RHP Ben Casparius (1-2, 3.16 ERA) vs. RHP Ryan Twitchell (2-0, 1.47 ERA)
Saturday: RHP Joe Simeone (0-2, 7.30 ERA) vs. RHP Mike Webb (2-0, 4.13 ERA)
RHP Austin Peterson (1-1, 4.41 ERA) vs. RHP Trystan Levesque (0-0, 6.17 ERA)
There will be no more long flights to areas known for good barbecue this year for UConn baseball (7-11), as they kick off a long stretch of home games and bus trips to Big East schools with a weekend series against Rhode Island.
“We’re just not used to being up second, you know,” head coach Jim Penders said. “You’re hearing fans cheer for you for the first time all year.”
After a long non-conference schedule that included trips to several College World Series regulars, the Huskies will host their first non-conference series of the year, facing Rhode Island in two games in Storrs and one game in Kingston.
UConn has already played Atlantic 10 opponents four times this year, losing to Davidson in the Baseball at the Beach tournament and winning a weekend series against St. Joseph’s.
UConn has a long history against the Rhodies, having faced them a whopping 182 times since the two programs began. The series is lopsided in favor of the Huskies; they’ve gone 116-68-5 against their next-door neighbors since 1896. UConn’s most recent meetings with Rhode Island came in 2019, a pair of midweek wins.
Rhode Island’s lineup from 2019 isn’t too different than the one they’ve rolled out so far this season. The top of the order is practically identical—Austin White, Josh Brodeur and Xavier Vargas return at center field, second base and first base respectively, while Max Mircocich still patrols left field. Joe Fortin and Jordan Laske also both return, this time in bigger roles as upperclassmen. Redshirt senior Greg Cavaliere at left field is another holdover from 2019, although he wasn’t in the lineup either time UConn played them.
The Rhodies have gotten off to a decent start to the 2021 season, sitting 9-7-1 with series wins over Old Dominion and UMass Lowell. They’re sitting pretty in RPI early in the year, with their strength of schedule bolstered by playing East Carolina on opening weekend, a series in which they were swept.
White, a Portland, Connecticut native, leads the team in hits (22), batting average (.355) and runs scored (12), while catcher Sonny Ulliana leads the team in slugging (.417) and doubles (5).
Junior Ryan Twitchell and fifth-year senior Mike Webb are the two nailed-on weekend starters, with the last spot up for grabs. Twitchell is the Rhodies’ ace, and he’s thrown like one so far this year. Through five starts, the 6-foot-5 right-hander from Maine is 2-0, with a 1.47 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. Webb has had a slightly rougher go of it, allowing eight or more hits in three out of his six appearances. Freshman Trystan Levesque from East Lyme, Connecticut has slotted into the third starting spot, as the Rhodies have looked to make a bullpen game of Sunday games as of late.
What to watch for
- Rhode Island is currently ranked No. 24 in RPI thanks to their strong non-conference schedule, so UConn could get a nice boost if they’re able to come away with a series win this weekend. It’s far too early to start RPI-watching in earnest, of course, but after a tough start to the season, every little bit will count as the Huskies head into conference play.
- Patrick Winkel might be ready to get back behind the plate this weekend after spending a few games at DH brought on by an aggravated hamstring. In his absence, however, Ciaran Devenney has made a strong bid for that starting spot. He hasn’t gotten off to the strongest start offensively, but he’s tremendous behind the plate. He brings bags of experience to the role, and it shone through on Tuesday against Central Connecticut with a bullet pickoff throw and a tremendous bunt play.
- Kyler Fedko is must-watch television at this point. Over the past seven games he’s gone 20-31 at the plate with six doubles and a home run, earning himself a pair of Big East Player of the Week awards. He’s been an anchor in the middle of the Huskies’ order for three years now, and Rhode Island pitchers will no doubt have their hands full this weekend.