March 14, 2013
By Brendan Flynn, UConn Athletic Communications
As a freshman, Jon Testani cracked the UConn baseball lineup as a left fielder early in the season due to several injuries, but eventually made the move to a more natural position on the infield. He started 22 games at third base, the most of four players used on the hot corner by the Huskies in 2012.
During that 22-game stretch, as Testani went, so did the Huskies. Connecticut went 17-5 over that stretch, including a season-high seven-game winning streak. Testani hit .333 (23-for-69) with 12 runs scored, 12 driven in and two home runs.
However, the errors began to pile up for the rookie third baseman. Testani posted just a .755 fielding percentage, totaling 12 errors, resulting in a back-up role and spot starts at designated hitter.
Testani finished the year hitting .267 with 21 RBI and three homers.
This year, Testani has made the move to the outfield on a full-time basis and won the starting right field position coming out of the preseason.
While Testani expects the majority of his contributions to primarily come from within the batter’s box, his improvement in the outfield has secure his spot in the lineup and helped solidify a UConn defense that ranked last in the BIG EAST.
“To be honest, all through high school, I played in the infield,” said Testani, who played just three games in left as a freshman. “Summer ball I always played in the infield. I didn’t have too much experience in the outfield. It was a little bit different. Throughout the entire fall, I really worked on it and started feeling comfortable in both left field and right field.”
Testani spent this past summer playing for the Southampton Breakers of the ACBL. There he hit .273 with nine home runs and 36 RBI, while beginning his transition to the outfield.
“Last year after the BIG EAST Tournament I talked to the coaches and the future plans for me and where they see me. They said they saw me somewhere in the outfield; either left or right. So when I went to summer ball I communicated with my coach and said, ‘hey listen, I want to get a good amount of reps in the outfield, because that’s potentially where I could be playing next year’. He was understanding of that and I got a lot of reps and played a good amount of time in the outfield.”
Upon returning to Storrs in August, Testani continued to play in the outfield all throughout fall ball, while continuing to great groundballs on the infield.
At Connecticut’s pro scouting day at J.O. Christian Field in September, Testani fielded groundballs at third and short, while also taking fly balls in right field. His play in the outfield, particularly his throws back in to the infield, caught the attention of many on hand.
When asked about his greatest strength in the outfield, Testani’s answer was simple.
“My arm strength.”
“The funny thing too, that’s kind of different,” he continued, “is adjusting my arm angle and my arm path, going from a shorter motion on the infield to a longer motion in the outfield.”
Through 13 games this season, Testani has started every single one in right for the Huskies. His comfort level and familiarity with the position continue to grow and it shows.
In Wednesday’s road win at Central Connecticut State, Testani made a good read on a ball hit over his head that hit off the base of the wall in the right field corner. With a strong throw back to the infield, he was able to hold the CCSU hitter to a single, on what could easily have been a double.
“I feel pretty comfortable. I’m getting good read off the bat, whether it be in BP and just carrying it over into the game. A lot of different things that I’ve learned; picking up the wind, positioning yourself with two strikes and different counts.”
For the season, Testani owns a .971 fielding percentage on just one error, an ill-advised throwing error in just the third game of the season against Purdue on February 17.
At the plate, Testani is also showing signs of improvement over the last few games. On Wednesday he hit an RBI-double, which came two games after a 3-for-4, four-RBI day at Sam Houston State.
“I feel comfortable, just seeing the ball well, swinging at pitches that I can handle. I’m not really trying to go out of my zone and staying with the same approach. [The SHSU game] felt good. I felt good in BP and it carried over into the game. Of course it feels good when you have runners in scoring position and you get the job done.”
On a young team that started five freshmen in the field last Sunday, Testani will quickly find that even though he is only a sophomore he is soon to be one of the veterans on the UConn team and will a solid approach at the plate and steady glove in right, the Huskies may have found some depth to their lineup from an unexpected source.