Column: Baseball is back
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 00:04
Editor’s Note: This column was written prior to the completion of UConn’s game at Quinnipiac Monday afternoon.
The biggest miracle of this past weekend was not Jesus rising from the dead, but the Mets starting the season 3-0. The Yankees and Red Sox are both 0-3 and the Orioles and Mariners are in first place. Baseball is back. Although after one series Major League Baseball seems out of whack, there is one level of baseball that is business as usual.
The UConn baseball team swept Pittsburgh this past weekend to move to 18-13, with an 8-1 Big East record. The Huskies are tied with South Florida for first place in the conference. After a slow start against tough opponents UConn is back on track. Sound familiar?
Last season, which ended with the baseball program’s second straight trip to the NCAA tournament and resulted in the Huskies becoming the first New England team to make the Super regionals, did not get off to a great start. UConn was 8-9-1 when their Big East schedule began. The Huskies finished 45-20-1 in one of the most memorable seasons in school history.
The Huskies started this year 3-6. Through 17 games, UConn was 6-11, and then they returned to Storrs and Big East play and haven’t looked back. Since March 18, the Huskies are 12-2 (Quinnipiac result pending), and things are starting to look a lot like they did last season, which would be a good thing for UConn fans.
Coach Jim Penders lost George Springer and Matt Barnes to the first round of the MLB Draft last year, but the Huskies are still in position to make it to the NCAA tournament for a third straight year. L.J. Mazzilli has belted seven home runs to go along with his 27 RBIs. Ryan Fuller, Billy Ferriter and Tim Martin are also hitting over .300 on the year. Nine batters have double digit RBIs and the lowest on-base percentage in the starting line up is .339.
On the mound, closer Scott Oberg has six saves and an ERA of 1.76. Every starter is has a .500 record or above, except for Pat Butler who is 2-3, and their opponents batting average is .244. What does all of this mean?
UConn has a balanced attack and guys step up for each other. Joe Pavone and Will Johlin were hurt during the series at Pitt, but that didn’t stop the Huskies from sweeping the Panthers.
“When a guy goes down, another one’s got to step up, and this weekend they did that,” Penders told Andrew Callahan of The Daily Campus and WHUS Sunday. “It was a real team effort and I was happy with the way we came out and played this weekend.”
UConn has won its first three conference series and has six weekend series remaining on the Big East schedule. Penders always stresses winning series and if there continue to be “real team” efforts the rest of the way then the Huskies will have a great chance to repeat as Big East regular season champions.