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UConn Opens 119th Season With Three At Florida Atlantic

Head Coach Jim Penders is 382-270-4 all-time at UConn and enters his 12th season in 2015
Feb. 12, 2015

Game Notes (PDF) || Radio: WHUS, 91.7 FM || Video: Friday | Sunday || Season Preview Series

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- For the 119th time, the University of Connecticut baseball team will take to the diamond for opening day this weekend. UConn opens the 2015 season with a weekend series at Florida Atlantic out of Conference USA. The Huskies and Owls will square off on Friday, Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14 at 4 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 15 at 12 p.m. at FAU Baseball Stadium.

The UConn program holds an all-time record of 1,641-1,312-29 (.556 winning percentage) since its inception in 1896. Jim Penders is in his 12th season as manager at UConn and is the program’s fourth head coach since 1936. Penders holds a 382-270-4 record during his time at Connecticut, coming in at secomd behind his former manager, Andy Baylock, in all-time wins at UConn (556).

The Huskies return seven starters in the field and three starting pitchers with weekend rotation experience. Offensively, junior captain Bobby Melley (Barnstable, Mass.) will look to build on a 2014 campaign that saw him lead the American Athletic Conference with a .359 batting average. Senior Blake Davey (Newport Beach, Calif.) smacked 10 home runs and scored 48 times last season, while junior backstop Max McDowell (North Huntingdon, Pa.) joined Davey and Melley as a First Team All-Conference performer a year ago. 

In the outfield, junior Jack Sundberg (Mansfield, Conn.) returns to anchor center field after drawing a team-high 34 walks from the leadoff spot a year ago, also swiping 27 bases to finish 19th nationally. Seniors Jon Testani (Monroe, Conn.) and Eric Yavarone (North Haven, Conn.) both have played in over 120 games in their careers and provide the Huskies with veteran experience on the corners. 

Along with Melley on the infield, juniors Bryan Daniello (Norwalk, Conn.) and Vinny Siena (Woodbridge, Conn.) started nearly every game last season at third and second base, respectively. Daniello clocked 17 extra-base hits, while Siena hit over .300 as a freshman in 2013. Sophomore shortstop Aaron Hill (Groton, Conn.) started 38 games last year. 

The rotation gains a boost this year with the return of redshirt senior captain Carson Cross (Bretnwood, N.H.), who missed all of 2014 after being named The American Preseason Pitcher of the Year. Cross went 9-4 with a 2.44 ERA in the 2013 season. Joining him on the weekend staff to start the year are classmate and co-captain Jordan Tabakman (Pompton Plains, N.J.) and sophomore lefty Anthony Kay (Stony Brook, N.Y.). UConn also returns sophomore Andrew Zapata (Staten Island, N.Y.), who started eight games in 15 appearances last year and held opponents to a .180 batting average against to go along with a 2.57 ERA. 

In the bullpen, hard-throwing redshirt junior Devin Over (Windsor, Conn.) led the Huskies with a 2.05 ERA last year and will be counted on to pitch in late-game situations in 2015. Sophomore Patrick Ruotolo (Peabody, Mass.) struck out 49 batters in 44.0 innings over 25 relief appearances last season, and redshirt junior Max Slade (Cheshire, Conn.) and redshirt sophomore Ryan Radue (Appleton, Wis.) return with bullpen experience as well. Converted submarine-style junior Nico Darras (Laguna Beach, Calif.) will also factor into the bullpen along with a slew of talented newcomers. 

UConn in Season Openers… Under Jim Penders, the Huskies are 2-9 in regular season opening games. UConn’s last win in a season opener came in 2012, an 8-0 victory over Indiana. The Huskies last opened the regular season with a three-game series in 2007, which also marked the last time they opened outside of the state of Florida. That year, the Huskies played a three-game set at Western Carolina to open the season. Overall in the history of the program, Connecticut is 52-64-2 in season openers. 
All-Time vs. FAU... UConn has faced Florida Atlantic three times before, all in a season-opening series against the then-No. 20 Owls in 2006. The Huskies took two of three in the series, splitting a doubleheader on Feb. 25 before a 9-1 win on Feb. 26. Austin Wasserman led the Connecticut offense by going  5-for-10 with five RBIs in the series while Rich Sirois and Nick Tucci each picked up wins on the mound. 
Versus The Sunshine State... The Huskies are 38-53 all-time against teams from the state of Florida, with 51 of those contests against American Athletic Conference rivals Central Florida and South Florida. 
Against Conference USA... Facing teams that currently comprise Conference USA, Connecticut holds an 8-8 record all-time. The Huskies have winning records against FAU and Old Dominion, while they have played Charlotte six times and UAB four times, splitting the all-time series with both squads. 

Following the opening series at Florida Atlantic, UConn is back in Florida from Feb. 21-23 for a three-game set against Siena at Tradition Field, spring training home of the New York Mets, in Port St. Lucie.