Two days after winning their third consecutive series, the UConn baseball team returns to action with a midweek game against Sacred Heart University. The game was originally scheduled to be played at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, but will now be played at Joe Nathan Field in Stony Brook, NY on Stony Brook University’s campus. The Huskies will be the home team.
Sophomore Andrew Zapata will make his first start of the season for the Huskies (6-6) against the Pioneers (0-8). The Staten Island native has a 21.60 ERA in only 1.2 innings pitched this season, but shined in the midweek starter role in 2014, making eight starts and posted a 2.57 ERA in 63 innings pitched, top among all starters.
“He’s struggled out of the pen, and he’s more of a starter,” head coach Jim Penders said of Zapata. “He’s got three pitches he can throw for strikes. His big thing is confidence. I felt like the other day when we gave him some gate action, he looked a little more confident with his stuff.”
Zapata shined in his start against the Pioneers last season, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning. The Staten Island native was done after the seventh, surrendering only one hit and striking out five to pick up the win in his first career start.
In the Huskies 7-4 loss to Florida International Sunday, the bottom of the UConn lineup provided some pop for one of the first times all year. Joe DeRoche-Duffin, Eric Yavarone and Aaron Hill combined to 3-11 with two UConn’s four RBIs, both of which came from Hill. Despite struggling for most of the young season, Hill hit a home run for his first-ever extra base hit. Although Hill is hitting only .152 on the season, he has the ability to draw walks and wreak havoc on the basepaths, posting a .333 on base percentage and swiping two bases so far this season.
After a strong offensive season of summer ball with the Mystic Schooners of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, Penders believes the sophomore shortstop can break out of a slump and become a significant contributor to the UConn lineup.
“It’s amazing that as terrible at bats as he’s had, he’s scored the third most runs on the team,” Penders said. “He does get on base. What we need him to do is just trust his ability and have confidence. If he has confidence, he’s going to be an offensive player for us.”
The Pioneers enter their matchup with the Huskies on an eight-game losing streak, including dropping four straight at Washington State. As a team, the Pioneers are hitting .173 with a .218 slugging percentage, and have one home run a piece from Zack Short and Victor Sorrento.
With a struggling Sacred Heart lineup to take on after taking two of three from FIU, Penders hopes that the team will be able to generate some momentum heading into the BB&T College Baseball Series in Greenville, SC and a full slate of games next week.
“The game is meant to be played everyday, it really is,” Penders said. “We’ve always improved the more that we’ve played games, and I hope we can play tomorrow for that reason.”