Archive for the 'Baseball' Category

Column: UConn baseball takes next step, needs to improve field

By Matt McDonough, Sports Editor

UConn men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun was late.

Calhoun was later than expected to a scheduled mid-week media availability meeting in the underbelly of Gampel Pavilion. After the coach emerged from the blocked off men’s basketball hallway, he explained to the press that baseball coach Jim Penders and a couple of recruits had visited his office for a meeting. Calhoun commended the job Penders was doing at UConn before talking about his own team who, although struggling at the time, was on its way to a national championship.

Of course the baseball team didn’t win a national championship this summer. And with the men’s basketball team winning a third NCAA championship this spring, it still wouldn’t hurt if Penders took his recruits to talk to a Hall of Fame coach about the prestige of UConn athletics and the progress the baseball team has made in recent years.

But there will come a time when Penders won’t have to take his prospective athletic students to visit a basketball arena.

Although the Huskies fell to the defending champion Gamecocks at South Carolina in the Super Regional last weekend, it was just another needed step in the right direction. Dubbed the “Pride of New England,” UConn played in front of a national television audience on ESPN 2 and ESPNU in the program’s first Super Regional. Although the Huskies have made the College World Series five times, it’s been 32 years since the last trip. A much different and much easier format favored Northeast schools then, now it’s nearly impossible for a New England school to make it to Omaha. Still, Omaha was the Huskies season goal.

Although UConn didn’t achieve two of its goals, the College World Series and a Big East tournament championship, the Huskies still captured the conference regular season title and the Clemson Regional. With its back to the wall after a 13-1 defeat at the hands of Coastal Carolina on the Regional’s first day., UConn climbed back. The Huskies went on to beat in-state foe Sacred Heart 13-3, eliminated the Chanticleers 12-6 then pushed Clemson to the brink of elimnation with a 7-6 walkoff win. Ryan Fuller’s game-winning hit made it a winner-take-all Regional Final on Monday June 6.

June 6 is famous for the beginning of the World War II D Day invasion. June 6, 2011 may go down as the greatest day in program history. The Huskies romped the Tigers 14-1 on their home field. During the game, George Springer and Matt Barnes were both selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft’s first round. Eight other players would be selected over the next two days. UConn was going to its first Super Regional with its two highest draft selections ever.

The run, however, would end as the Huskies fell to South Carolina the next weekend 5-1 and 8-2, respectively. As USC’s closer Matt Price was mobbed by his teammates, ESPNU cameras panned to the UConn dugout, full of long faces. The Huskies had ample opportunities in both games, and based on the season goal, losing two games shy of the World Series was a disappointment for the players. UConn was outclassed by the reigning champions. Barnes, their ace didn’t come through in the first game and the Huskies offense seemed to end every inning with a double play in the clincher.

When interviewed by ESPN between innings, Penders seemed to deflect all credit away from him, saying he hadn’t built anything noting that UConn has always had a good baseball program.

He was half right. History supports the latter portion of his statement, but Penders, the Big East Coach of the Year, has built something in the state of Connecticut. UConn hosted a Regional last year, played off-campus games in New Britain and Norwich this season and has had three first-round picks in the last two years. It’s now a place for players who want to play at the next level. The seniors and juniors who move onto professional careers can hang their hats on the fact that they made baseball relevant at UConn again. It may always be in the shadow of bigger sports, but baseball is on its way to regularly sharing some of the Storrs spotlight.

The thing to do now is to improve J.O. Christian Field. It will never have the mystique and championships that college ballparks in Louisiana, Texas, Arizona and California do, but it does have the potential to be a great baseball facility. I’ve always considered the Huskies’ home in Storrs to have charm, but when Eastern Connecticut (Divison III) and Southern Connecticut (Division II), although both successful programs, have far better baseball fields that the state’s flagship university, it’s a problem. At least add some seatbacks to those cold, metal bleachers.

Improvements to J.O. Christian field would help recruiting, especially with TCU added to the Big East. UConn would actually be able to host a Regional on its campus. It would give Penders a place to market because someday, sooner rather than later, there will be College World Series appearances.

The Pride of New England will receive regular national recognition and UConn baseball will speak for itself.

And Penders won’t have to show recruits the banners in Gampel Pavilion anymore.

Huskies earn second straight berth to NCAAs

By Colin McDonough, Associate Sports Editor

As the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament, the UConn baseball team did not fare well down in Clearwater, Fla. The Huskies were eliminated in the semis after going 2-2 in the tourney. UConn beat Notre Dame twice, but fell both times to Seton Hall, including a 12-2 loss in 8 innings due to the mercy rule. The Big East regular season champs were not shut out of the NCAA tournament after the .500 week in the conference tournament that did not wrap up the Big East’s automatic bid to the NCAAs.

The Huskies’ quest to reach the College World Series in Omaha begins June 3 in Columbia, S.C. where UConn will be the No. 2 seed in No. 1 seed Clemson’s regional.

Huskies complete successful road trip

By Ryan Tepperman, Staff Writer

The UConn baseball team rounded out its seven-game road trip through California by taking two of three games from San Diego. The wins pushed the Huskies over the .500 mark, as they now sit at 7-6 on the young season.

UConn won game one of the series last Thursday night by a score of 6-4. Bob Van Woert collected his first win of the season after surrendering just a run in 6.1 innings. The offense spread six runs and 13 hits throughout the contest, as six different Huskies drove a run home.

Senior Doug Elliot fell in Friday’s 3-2 pitcher’s duel that saw UConn squander an early 2-0 lead. The Huskies would rebound, however, in the final game of the road trip on the back of a complete-game shutout by Matt Barnes.

UConn finished the trip with a 5-2 record, including a win over then-No. 14 Cal. The Huskies will return to action tomorrow when they travel to face in-state foe Sacred Heart.

Baseball drops season opener to Purdue 10-2

By Mac Cerullo, Sports Editor

The No. 9 UConn baseball team stumbled out of the gate in last night’s season opener, losing to Purdue 10-2 at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge in Florida.

The Boilermakers jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the second, eventually stretching their lead to 4-0 by the seventh inning. UConn got on the board in the bottom of the 7th, however, when Nick Ahmed reached base on a fielders choice, scoring Billy Ferriter for the Huskies first run of the game.

UConn threatened to do more damage in that inning, but wound up coming away with nothing else as Kevin Vance popped out to second, leaving the bases loaded.

The game would quickly swing back into Purdue’s favor in the top of the 8th, as the Boilermakers scored two in the inning, and then four more in the top of the 9th. UConn would collect one more run in the bottom of the 9th on a sacrifice fly by George Springer, but could not close the gap any further.

Elliot Glynn got the loss for UConn, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits during 4.2 innings pitched. Purdue’s Matt Morgan picked up the win, striking out 5 Huskies in 5.2 shutout innings.

Overall, it was not the way UConn hoped to open the year, but the Huskies will have a chance to get back on track this afternoon as they face Minnesota at 4 p.m.

At the conclusion of that game, you can find a quick recap here, along with a full recap of the entire Big East/Big Ten Challenge in Tuesday’s paper.

ESPN: UConn baseball dealing with expectations

By Colin McDonough, Senior Staff Writer

ESPN features the UConn baseball team that is preparing for its 2011 season. The No. 9 Huskies take the field tonight in Dunedin, Fla against Purdue in the Big East/Big Ten Challenge.

Watch the feature here!

UConn baseball tabbed at No. 9 in preseason poll

By Mac Cerullo, Sports Editor

UConn baseball turned heads last year, winning a program record 22-straight games en route to the team’s best season since 1979. The team is returning a lot of talent from last year’s squad too, enough that many of the experts are predicting an even better season this year.

The fact is certainly reflected in the preseason rankings anyway. Baseball America released their preseason poll yesterday afternoon, and they have UConn tabbed at No. 9 in the country. It was the first time the school has ever been ranked in the Baseball America preseason poll, and the first Top-10 preseason ranking the school’s ever achieved in any national preseason poll.

The Baseball America poll dates back to 1981. This year’s rankings tab Florida as the No. 1 team in the nation, and features two Big East teams in the Top-25 (UConn at No. 9 and St. John’s at No. 23.) Here is the complete poll.

1.    Florida
2.    UCLA
3.    Texas Christian
4.    Vanderbilt
5.    Oklahoma
6.    Texas
7.    South Carolina
8.    Cal State Fullerton
9.    Connecticut
10.    Clemson
11.    Arizona State
12.    Florida State
13.    Stanford
14.    Oregon
15.    Virginia
16.    Baylor
17.    California
18.    Rice
19.    Arizona
20.    College of Charleston
21.    Texas A&M
22.    Louisiana State
23.    St. John’s
24.    Miami
25.    Tulane

UConn baseball picked as preseason Big East favorite

By Mac Cerullo, Sports Editor

The UConn baseball team has been picked as the preseason favorite to win the Big East conference by the  leagues 12 head coaches. UConn received 9 out of 11 possible first place votes to lift them ahead of St. John’s (picked second) and Louisville (picked third). The first place preseason pick is the highest of coach Jim Penders’ tenure at UConn.

Last season UConn finished 48-16 overall with a 20-6 mark in the Big East. The Huskies finished a half game out of first place behind Louisville in the regular season, and then lost out on the Big East tournament championship when they fell to St. John’s. The Huskies did earn an NCAA Tournament berth, and hosted a regional in Norwich, CT. There, the Huskies won their first NCAA Tournament game since 1979, but did not advance after being beaten by the University of Oregon twice in the opening double elimination round.

This year’s UConn team looks to build on last years success, as the team will return seven starters from last season, including the preseason player of the year in George Springer, and the preseason pitcher of the year in Matt Barnes. Both players are juniors and both spent time over this past summer playing for Team USA’s collegiate national team.

Springer hit .337 with 18 home runs, 62 RBIs and 33 stolen bases last season, and will be joined in what again promises to be a potent lineup by senior first basemen Mike Nemeth and junior designated hitter Kevin Vance, both of whom were also named to the preseason All Big East team along with Springer and Barnes.

The Huskies open their season on Feb. 18 in the Big East/Big Ten Challenge against Purdue in Florida.


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UConn Men’s Basketball

West Region - No. 3 Seed, 30-9 (9-9)

Last Game: 65-63 W vs. (5) Arizona (March 26)

Next Game: vs. (4) Kentucky (April 2, 8:49 p.m., Reliant Stadium, Houston.)

1 - Enosch Wolf
2 - Donnell Beverly
3 - Jeremy Lamb
4 - Jamal Coombs-McDaniel
5 - Niels Giffey
10 - Tyler Olander
13 - Shabazz Napier
15 - Kemba Walker
21 - Kyle Bailey
22 - Roscoe Smith
23 - Benjamin Stewart
25 - Michael Bradley
34 - Alex Oriakhi
35 - Charles Okwandu

UConn Women’s Basketball

Philadelphia Region No. 1 Seed, 36-1 (16-0)

Last Game: 75-40 W vs. (2) Duke (March 29)

Next Game: vs. (2) Notre Dame (April 3, 9 p.m., Canseco Field House, Indianapolis, Ind.)

3 - Tiffany Hayes
5 - Caroline Doty
12 - Lauren Engeln
14 - Bria Hartley
23 - Maya Moore
25 - Michala Johnson
30 - Lorin Dixon
31 - Stefanie Dolson
32 - Heather Buck
34 - Kelly Faris

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