Wawa Classic up next for UConn baseball
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 23:02
Once again, the UConn baseball team heads south while the winter continues.
The Huskies will travel to Orlando, Fla. to participate in the UCF Wawa Weekend Classic this weekend and are scheduled to face off against UCF, Troy and Texas Tech in the tournament.
Coach Jim Penders’ team is coming off a 1-2 opening weekend, and an especially disappointing finale performance Sunday.
“We got beat [last Friday] night, we came back, I liked our fight on Friday night,” Penders said. “On Saturday, I was really excited about our ability to pitch; we pitched really well and we didn’t drive in many runs, but we pitched it really well. And then on Sunday, it was like everything blew up. It was like we got worse in 13 hours. We struggled to do anything right, I did not like our energy at all.”
But Penders said that the Huskies have had a strong week of practice, and he is confident that they will bounce back well heading into their second weekend of play.
“We’re playing three really good teams and really good programs. They’re not just good teams; they have a history of success so we expect three really good battles. All three of them can really, really pitch. They’re aggressive teams, we know they’re going to put a lot of heat on us. They’re all from the South, they’ve been on fields a lot longer than us.”
Despite the fact that they will be competing against teams with the inherent advantage of living in warm-weather climates and being able to practice outdoors on a regular basis, Penders refuses to use that as an excuse to be ill-prepared early on in the season.
Having to practice indoors, in fact, can be used as an advantage, according to Penders. He feels the mentality it requires to be able to practice indoors and then perform in live-game situations can build up a toughness that is beneficial down the line during the season.
During the opening weekend, starting pitching was volatile for Penders, as ace Anthony Marzi gave up seven runs before he could record an out in the fourth inning. Carson Cross and Brian Ward, the other two starters, fared better and allowed a combined eight runs – five earned – over their 12 innings.
“Marzi just wasn’t himself,” Penders said. “He was up in the zone, and he got hit around in that one big inning – it seemed like they had seven runs in about three minutes, it was over that fast.”
The bullpen, on the other hand, was the Huskies biggest strength through the first three games. UConn relievers yielded just four runs – three earned – in 18 innings pitched over the first three games of the season.
The strength of his relievers was reassuring to Penders, who knows he can use them as a big advantage if that kind of pitching continues.
“If our bullpen pitches the way that it did this past weekend, we only need four or five innings out of our starters to put together a nice ballgame on the mound,” Penders said.
That strong pitching will need to continue for UConn against the Knights, Trojans and Red Raiders, all of whom are off to good starts so far this season.
UCF took two out of three against Siena before dropping a 5-3 game to No. 17 Florida last weekend. Troy has started their season off a perfect 4-0 after a sweep of Florida A&M, and Texas Tech is also 4-0 after wins against BYU, Northern Colorado and two against Northern Illinois.
The Huskies are slated to take on UCF at 7 p.m. on Friday, Troy at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Texas Tech at 11 a.m. on Sunday. All three games can be heard live on WHUS.