Friday, April 9, 6 p.m.
Saturday, April 10, doubleheader starting at 12 p.m.
Sunday, April 11, 1:05 p.m.
Where: Elliot Ballpark, Storrs, Connecticut
TV: Huskies All-Access (CW 20 in Connecticut on Sunday)
Radio: FM 91.7 WHUS
Friday: RHP Ben Casparius (3-2, 3.35 ERA) vs. LHP Angelo Tonas (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Saturday (Game one): RHP Austin Peterson (3-2, 3.35 ERA) vs. RHP Andrew DeRoche (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Saturday (Game two): RHP Pat Gallagher (2-1 5.57, ERA) vs. RHP Carter Bosch (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Sunday: RHP Joe Simeone (1-3, 5.40 ERA) vs. LLHP Jack Weeks (0-1, 18.00 ERA)
UConn baseball will play their first Big East conference series in eight years when they take on Georgetown in a four-game series starting on Friday.
As of a month ago, the Hoyas had no idea if their baseball team would actually play during the current 2021 season after forgoing fall practice because of COVID concerns. They had only practiced in person sparingly before first-year head coach Edwin Thompson announced their season schedule on March 9.
Since then, Georgetown has played exactly one (1) game, a midweek tune-up on Wednesday against VCU which they lost 13-4.
We can’t glean much about the team from that limited sample size, but we do know that the Hoyas return a slew of players from their 2019 squad that went 22-34 (7-11 in conference play).
Their most notable returnee is third baseman Eddie McCabe who’s back for his senior year with the team. The Norwalk, Connecticut native led the team in all major categories in 2019, hitting .345/.453/.433 with 70 hits, and was named to the 2019 All-Big East first team. AJ Lotsis is their second big returner in the lineup, a fifth-year outfielder who led the team in batting in 2020 with a .343/.436/.547 line. Both Lotsis and McCabe recorded hits in their season-opener against VCU, but Princeton grad transfer Conor Nolan went 2-for-3 against the Rams to have the best night at the dish for the Hoyas.
Left-hander Jack Weeks projects to be their best pitcher over the course of the year and the Huskies will face him on Sunday in his second start of the season. Weeks was the lone bright spot of the rotation in 2019 then again in 2020, compiling a career 2.95 ERA in the process. Lefthander Angelo Tonas will face off against Ben Casparius on Friday then righties Andrew Bosch and Carter DeRoche will each get a start during Saturday’s doubleheader.
What to watch for
The Huskies enter this weekend’s series on a five-game winning streak — their longest since 2017 — and are 11-2 since getting swept in a four-game series against Texas Tech. Their season turnaround can be partly attributed to playing weaker opponents, but their collective improvement at the plate has played a major role as well.
UConn has scored seven or more runs in eight of their twelve games since the Texas Tech series, only failing to get double-digit hits five times during that stretch while raising their team batting average to just a bit below .300.
Chris Winkel returned as a lineup regular for the St. Joe’s series and upped his average from .179 to .257 since. His brother Patrick is on a five-game hitting streak and is slugging .545 over the past ten games as his confidence continues to grow. That succes has spread into his performances behind the plate where he’s thrown out six would-be base-stealers over the past ten games, including this beauty against UMass:
Pat Winkel catches his third would-be base stealer of the weekend! pic.twitter.com/8isfdRWqED— UConn Baseball (@UConnBSB) April 3, 2021
The UConn offense should keep rolling this weekend against Georgetown, a team similar in quality to UMass who the Huskies outscored 26-6 during last weekend’s sweep.
This will be UConn’s first of seven four-game conference series so it’ll give us a chance to take a look at how the Huskies’ pitching staff will respond to a compressed schedule. The closest we’ve seen to a true four-game weekend so far was against Texas Tech. Since then, Pat Gallagher has replaced Kenny Haus as a candidate for the fourth starter spot after impressing the coaching staff in midweek starts against Boston College and Central Connecticut.
UConn will need plenty of depth in the bullpen for what more or less amounts to a regional’s-worth of games in a weekend.
Besides the usual suspects — closer Caleb Wurster, setup man Andrew Marrero, and long-relief specialist Kenny Haus — a number of newcomers have made their mark out of the bullpen. Vanderbilt transfer Justin Willis has made seven appearances and is still yet to allow an earned run while racking up 12 strikeouts. Randy Polonia is finally getting a chance to show his stuff on a regular basis and has pitched more innings out of the pen than anyone not named Wurster, holding down a 2.25 ERA over 16 frames.
Last but certainly not least is the formidable Reggie Crawford, who’s shown off his live arm while serving as the final boss at the back end of the UConn bullpen. Not content with leading the team in home runs and RBI while slugging .580 so far this season, Crawford has made three appearances on the mound and looked untouchable. His fastball flirts with triple digits on the radar gun and, despite rarely using his offspeed pitch, opposing hitters continue to look baffled at the plate. He has eight strikeouts, no walks, and has allowed just one hit. He won’t be used every series, but he’s a great asset for the Huskies to have in their back pocket as he demonstrated during Tuesday’s come-from-behind win over Bryant: