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Baseball Makes Final Trip to Morgantown to Open BIG EAST Slate

Sophomore SS Tom Verdi leads the Huskies with 16 RBI.

March 23, 2012

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STORRS, Conn. - Connecticut makes the trek to Morgantown, W.Va. for a three-game set for the final time this weekend as the Huskies open the BIG EAST slate with a 5:00 pm contest against the Mountaineers on Friday.

About the Huskies... UConn snapped a four-game losing streak, its first since 2009, with an 8-0 win over Yale in the home opener on Wednesday afternoon. Senior first baseman Ryan Fuller leads all Husky hitters with a .333 average and has driven in 11 runs out of the clean-up spot. The offense’s firepower has come out of the three-hole, with junior second baseman LJ Mazzilli blasting a homerun in each of the last four games. For the season, Mazzilli has knocked six out of the park, while bating .329 and scoring a team-high 16 runs. Sophomore shortstop Tom Verdi has moved around the batting order and produced everywhere, batting .314 with a team-leading 16 RBI. On the mound, sophomore lefty ace Brian Ward dropped to 3-1 in his last start and owns a 3.86 earned run average and has struck out 23 batters in 28 innings pitched. As a team, UConn is batting .274, while the pitchers are holding opponents to a .246 average.

Home Opener... The Huskies improved to 6-2-1 in home openers under head coach Jim Penders. Mazzilli took Yale’s started deep for a two-run shot in the first inning as Connecticut cruised to an 8-0 win over the Bulldogs. Junior righty Pat Butler took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and improved to 1-2 on the year with a seven-inning, three-hit effort. He also struck out a season-high six batters. Redshirt-senior Joe Pavone and freshmen Eric Yavarone and Jon Testani each recorded two hits for the Huskies, with Testani picking up two RBI and his first career double, while making his first start at third base. UConn has now won both its season opener and home opener by a score of 8-0 after defeating Indiana on February 17.

Scouting the Mountaineers...
Coming off a doubleheader split at home against Akron on Tuesday, West Virginia stands at 11-12 overall. Junior shortstop John Polonius is batting a team-best .314 with 12 runs, two homers and 10 RBI. Sophomore first baseman Ryan McBroom has knocked in a team-leading 16 runs on six doubles and a .288 average. Junior RHP Dan Dierdroff has pitched a team-high 31.2 innings and owns a 3-1 record, while making just three starts and holding a 3.98 ERA. Dierdorff has struck out 30 batters on the season. The Mountaineers started the season with a 3-0 showing at the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge in Florida.



All-Time vs. WVU... West Virginia holds a slight 23-22 advantage in the all-time series, which dates back to when the Mountaineers joined the BIG EAST in 1996. UConn won the first meeting on the road, 7-5. Penders is 12-10 vs. WVU.

Last Time They Met... Connecticut and West Virginia did not play last season. In 2010, the Huskies went on the road and swept the Mountaineers in three games. The first two wins came by scores of 9-5 and 9-2. In the finale, Matt Barnes picked up the win, going seven innings, allowing four hits and one unearned run in a 14-3 win. Kevin Vance went 3-4 at the dish with a three-run homer in the third and two runs. Mike Nemeth also jacked a two-run blast and scored twice in a 2-5 effort.

Big East Openers... Since the league’s inception in 1985, UConn is 12-15 in its first BIG EAST contest of the season and 2-6 under Coach Penders’ watch. The Huskies defeated Pittsburgh, 7-0, in last year’s opener, snapping a three-game losing streak in conference openers.

Up Next... The Huskies begin a five-game home stretch with non-conference games against Hartford and Central Connecticut on March 27 an 28, before hosting Seton Hall for its first home BIG EAST series between March 30 and April 1.

Closing in on 300... Penders is just four wins away from 300 career wins, all at UConn, after improving his career record to 296-195-3 with Wednesday’s win over Yale. He won his first game on March 8, 2004 against Butler. Current assistant coach Josh MacDonald was the winning pitcher.

Power Surge... Over the last six games, Mazzilli has hit five homeruns, lifting his season total to six, which matches his career total coming into the season. In his first two seasons, Mazzilli hit six homers, three in each season, in 91 games (0.07/game). This season has has slugged six in 18 games (0.33/game), a 471% increase in power.

TWI(UConn)B History... UConn and Cincinnati faced off for the first time in 2006 as it was the Bearcats’ first season in the BIG EAST. The Huskies swept Cincinnati at home by scores of 13-1, 6-5 and 3-2. Matt Untiet batted 6-11 on the weekend with four doubles, a homerun and six RBI. Tim Norton pitched seven innings of shutout ball in the opener, striking out eight.

Rare Run Support... Through five starts, sophomore lefty Anthony Marzi has recorded a 2.97 ERA, but is 0-4 on the season. He has received just eight runs of support and is scheduled to pitch on Saturday against West Virginia.

Revolving Corner... Following Wednesday’s match-up with Yale, three different players have started at third base, while all three other infield spots have been occupied by the same player since opening day. Senior Tim Martin, sophomore Mike Friel and freshman Jon Testani have all started at the hot corner. Friel has pulled nine starts, since replacing Martin who struggled with just a .733 fielding percentage. Friel has committed just one error and owns a .944 fielding percentage, but is batting just .208 when manning third, while Martin hit .238 playing third.