On Wednesday at J.O. Christian Field, the UConn baseball team once again filled up the scoreboard, posting 17 runs on 17 hits as they crushed UMass Lowell to improve to 27-15 on the year. However, the tone-setter was not a member of the Huskies’ terrifying lineup, but the Husky on the mound.
Freshman pitcher William Montgomerie did not allow a hit until the sixth inning, when UMass’s Joe Consolmagno beat out a throw to record an infield single. Montgomerie turned in a career-high 6.2 innings, allowing a run on three hits while tying another career-high with six strikeouts. With the win, he improved to 3-1 over five starts with an impressive 2.03 ERA.
“It feels pretty good,” Montgomerie said of his performance. “My fastball and my curveball were pretty good today, I was able to hit my spots.”
After Montgomerie stranded leadoff walks in the first and second innings, he settled in and got to work. By the sixth inning, he had retired 14 consecutive batters. Montgomerie’s quick delivery and turnaround between pitches allowed him to establish and maintain an up-tempo pace that kept him in control on the mound. UMass batters frequently appealed to the home-plate umpire for extra time to try to throw him off his game.
“It seems to take him a little while to get in rhythm but once he does, he works really fast,” head coach Jim Penders said. “There’s no real secret to what he’s doing, but he was able to execute. He wasn’t able to execute like that earlier in the year. (UConn assistant coach Joshua MacDonald) has done a good job with him, and Wills more than anything has done a good job with himself.”
In the early innings before he locked into form, Montgomerie received plenty of assistance from the defense behind him. Bobby Melley made a sharp play to double up a runner at first base in the first inning and then a fantastic diving stop to steal a base hit in the second.
“It gives me all the confidence in the world trusting that if I throw a pitch somewhere, (my teammates) are going to make a play for me,” Montgomerie said.
Montgomerie also acknowledged that his teammates’ scoring outburst played a big role in his mindset as a pitcher.
“It’s so much easier. It take pressure off you, really, to know that you can just go out there and throw pitches and you have a comfortable lead.”
After lasting only 4.2 innings and being handed a no-decision in his career debut against William and Mary on March 18, Montgomerie has displayed a steady improvement in his first year at UConn. He has lasted at least five innings in each subsequent start, and has yet to allow more than two runs in a single outing. He has settled in comfortably to his role as the Huskies’ second midweek starter.
“(Montgomerie) is building each time,” Penders said. “He’s gotten better, he seems to be progressing. When you get to late April of your freshman year, you are no longer a freshman.”