March 7, 2013
By Chris Jones, UConn ‘14/WHUS Sports
The Connecticut Huskies are off to one of their best starts under Head Coach Jim Penders and sophomore left fielder Eric Yavarone is a big reason for that success. Yavarone has started the season on a nine-game hitting streak with seven of them being multi-hit games. He also leads the team with nine runs batted in.
Hot starts have become the norm for Yavarone who also started his freshman year on a hot streak. As a freshman Yavarone registered a base hit in each of his first eight games. He hit .379 in those eight games while also hitting his first career home run and driving in five runs.
Against Indiana in the season opener last year, Yavarone lined a RBI double to left centerfield in his first at-bat as a Husky. “That was big for my confidence,” said Yavarone. “Getting that first hit out of the way in that first at-bat was huge.”
After the eight-game stretch to start the year, Yavarone never looked back. He played in 59 games for Connecticut, which is a program record for a freshman. “Coach told me I had a chance to play when I got here and I worked hard and was lucky enough to play and once I was in I played well enough to stay in,” said Yavarone.
Yavarone stepped in last year as a freshman out of North Haven High School. He was coming to a team fresh off their first Super Regional appearance and the man he was replacing in left field, Billy Ferriter, was now manning center field for the Huskies. A tall task for a freshman, but Yavarone was up to the challenge; eager to prove to everyone he belonged.
“I don’t think there was pressure because of the Super Regional team,” said Yavarone. “I think it was a little bit nerves, being a freshman and stepping on campus but more so adrenaline because I felt with all the work I put in that I was ready.”
Yavarone ended the 2012 season batting .270 with seven doubles, one triple, one home run and 24 runs batted in. Assessing his freshman year, Yavarone was pretty content with how the season went, “I was happy, not too many people get to play as many games as I did and I did pretty well.”
But the sophomore acknowledged that after the hot start he did cool off at the plate and wants to improve in that area. “I wish I didn’t slow down. This year, instead of hitting the bricks, I want to keep going,” said Yavarone. “I worried a little bit too much, I need to just keep swinging and that’s my motto for this year.”
Yavarone also mentioned that he needs to improve his base running as well. “I want to steal bases this year; I didn’t have any stolen bases last year which was pretty embarrassing.”
Already this year Yavarone has shown his improvement on the bases. In the third inning of Sunday’s game against Stetson, Yavarone used his speed with a bunt single to second base to lead off. As he took his lead off first base, Stetson starter Austin Perez decided to throw over to first base; Yavarone dove back safely and got back up, ready to steal second. But Yavarone would have to wait awhile. After nine unsuccessful pickoff attempts, Perez delivered a pitch that Yavarone was able to swipe second base on. A few pitches later Yavarone stole third base as well.
Yavarone has started the season with three stolen bases in three attempts after going last year without a steal in three attempts.
It has been the hitting though that has caught everyone’s attention. During his career-high nine-game hitting streak, Yavarone is hitting .385 with one home run and nine runs batted in. “When you’re going good, you’re going good. I’m feeling really confident right now, the biggest thing is to just relax and stay focused on that one at bat.”
Yavarone has moved up in the batting order from the nine spot where he started this season up to the five spot in the order. For Yavarone, he doesn’t mind the change. “It’s new, but I like it. There are always guys on base so I’m always locked in, always come up in good spots.”
So far, Yavarone has proven that he is worthy of the new role. In his first game in the five-spot against UCF, he picked up two hits. The very next day he added a two-run homer to give Connecticut a two-run lead over Troy, which they never relinquished. In the five-spot, Yavarone is 10-for-25 (.400) with one homer and seven runs batted in.
Through the first nine games of the 2012 and 2013 season, he has combined to hit .377 (26-for-69), two HRs and 14 RBI.
Yavarone will try to continue his strong start and extend his hit streak to 10 games when the Huskies travel to Huntsville, Texas to take on Sam Houston State on Friday at 7:30PM.