Huskies opens Big East play at Louisville
George Springer takes a swing in UConn’s 7-1 victory over Yale on Wednesday. JOHN LEVASSEUR/The Daily Campus
For UConn baseball to be the best in the Big East they'll have to beat the best and the Huskies get that opportunity this weekend at No. 7 Louisville.
The Cardinals are sitting atop the Big East and are the reigning back-to-back tournament champions.Louisville's title in 2009 came at the expense of the Huskies, an 11-3 victory in Florida. UConn is in fourth place in the conference with a 12-5 overall record. Louisville sports an 18-2 record. This weekend marks the beginning of Big East play for all 12 conference teams.
"Every Big East game is big," said coach Jim Penders. "Certainly these guys are on a national level. They've been playing great baseball and we feel like we owe them from last year. Hopefully that will be enough to win the series."
The Huskies head to Kentucky with three straight wins, all at home, over Sacred Heart, Northeastern and Yale. The weekend starters, Elliot Glynn, Greg Nappo and Matt Barnes will take the mound at Jim Patterson Stadium. Friday night will be a twilight game, starting at 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday's contests will start at 1 p.m.
Louisville halted UConn's four-game win streak, three of which came in the Big East tournament, to take the title and deny the Huskies a chance to play in the postseason. UConn may not have been ready to get over the hump last season, but this year, Penders and Co. have their sights set on the NCAA Regionals.
"You got to win Big East games to get to the Big East tournament and win the title," Penders said. The goal is to win the Big East championship – in order to do that you got to go through Louisville."
Penders praised the Cardinals' coaching, especially head coach Dan McDonnell, who has helped make Louisville a national power. They started the season with a 13-game winning streak, the opener a 13-1 bashing of Bowling Green at home, completing a sweep of the Falcons. The Cardinals' only two losses came against Ole Miss and Ball State. Their most recent win was Tuesday against Evansville.
Louisville's roster is loaded, led by junior slugger Phil Wunderlich. The third basemen, is hitting .376 with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs. Junior Thomas Royse is the Cards ace on a star-studded staff. The righty is 4-0 with a 1.74 ERA. Neil Holland is 3-0 out of the bullpen with a 0.45 ERA.
UConn is far from intimidated by the Cardinals, but still respect the reigning champions. Penders, who would like revenge for last year's tournament defeat, is happy to get an early test in-conference facing Louisville, but will take every Big East series seriously.
"It just happens they are the first on our schedule," Penders said.
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