Zapata, Siena power UConn past Northeastern

Prior to Tuesday’s game against Northeastern, Andrew Zapata made 13 starts in his two years at UConn, all away from the Huskies’ friendly confines of J.O. Christian Field. That changed Tuesday, as the sophomore right-hander shined in his first-ever home start, a 9-1 win for UConn’s 20th win of the season.

“To get my first start now, it’s been I guess too long, but I was ready to go and I felt locked in,” Zapata said. “I’m just glad that I could get the win for my team.”

The Staten Island, New York native scattered four hits over seven innings, striking out five and walking only one batter. Zapata allowed one earned run against Northeastern, lowering his ERA from 6.86 to 5.4. The win was Zapata’s second of the season, giving him a 2-0 record on the year.

“I thought that was his best outing of the year,” head coach Jim Penders said. “He was in command, and gave us a really good start. And we needed it because we were not clicking on any cylinders early offensively and he did a really nice job keeping (Northeastern) at bay… He was in charge today and looked the part.”

In his two seasons at UConn, Zapata has been solid in the midweek starter role. After a rough start to the season, Zapata has rebounded to post solid outings in his last three starts. Zapata went five innings and struck out six for his first win of the season against Yale on March 24, and managed to strike out five in 4.1 innings pitched against Boston College a week later. Last season, Zapata made eight midweek starts for the Huskies, going 3-2 with a 2.57 ERA, the lowest on the team for starters who threw at least 60 innings.

Siena Stays Hot

Prior to an explosive eighth inning in which the Huskies scored six runs, Vinny Siena hammered an inside fastball to put the Huskies ahead 3-1 with a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh.

The two-run blast marked yet another game in which Siena has made an impact with his bat this season. After hitting just .231 with two home runs and nine doubles last season, Siena has bounced back emphatically, leading the Huskies with a .370 average, 27 RBIs and 74 total bases.

“I’m definitely more comfortable and more confident,” Siena said. “Last year was kind of an up-and-down season for me. I started off hot and then cooled down and I just worked hard over the winter, over the fall, really building my confidence up and working on every aspect of the game.”

With middle of the order threats Blake Davey and Bobby Melley struggling in the early part of the season, Siena was there to pick up the slack. Siena recently owned an 18-game hitting streak that was snapped during the Huskies’ home opener against USF, and ranks amongst the top in the American Athletic Conference in hits. Now, with Melley reaching base for the 24th straight game and Davey being named to the American Honor Roll after hitting .500 last week, Siena hits ahead of two quality hitters and provides more pop in an already powerful lineup. After hitting only three home runs in his previous two years in Storrs, Siena already boasts four homers this season.

“He’s really kept us afloat and given us quality at bats really throughout the season,” Penders said. “He works really hard in the offseason, he’s developed his power a bit. It’s been great to watch him compete. I just like seeing the smile on his face, he comes to the ballpark and the weight room with a different attitude this year, and it’s been fun watching him.”

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