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STORRS, Conn. -- In a pivotal series for the American Athletic Conference standings, the UConn baseball team (24-13, 5-4 American) hosts East Carolina (22-15, 4-5) for three at J.O. Christian Field this weekend. The Huskies and Pirates will square off at 3 p.m. on Friday, April 17 before a 1 p.m. start on Saturday, April 18 and a noon series finale on Sunday, April 19. The three contests signify the start of a nine-game homestand for Connecticut.
FAN ADVISORY: A parade will close parts of Glenbrook and Hillside Roads from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Please keep this in mind if traveling to Satruday's contest.
The Huskies are winners of four of five after a series victory at nationally-ranked UCF last weekend before sweeping two midweek contests at Fairfield and Bryant. UConn has out-scored those opponents 47-15 during the stretch, thanks in part to Vinny Siena (Woodbridge, Conn.) batting .407 in 27 at-bats over the run.
Siena leads UConn with a .370 batting average this season, also coming in at first on the squad with 33 RBIs and 37 runs scored. The junior has cracked 10 doubles, two triples and four home runs to compile a team-best .527 slugging percentage. Willy Yahn (Sharon, Conn.) has worked his way into the lineup and has started UConn's last 20 contests, currently slashing .363/.407/.513 with five doubles and 19 RBIs. Max McDowell (North Huntingdon, Pa.) is batting .308 with a team-best six home runs and 26 driven in, while Jack Sundberg (Mansfield, Conn.) gets on base at a .436 clip from the leadoff spot and is seventh nationally with 23 stolen bases.
The UConn pitching staff is currently 10th in the NCAA with a 2.69 ERA, tops in The American. The Huskies weekend rotation is led by Carson Cross (Brentwood, N.H.) and reigning NCBWA National Pitcher of the Week Anthony Kay (Stony Brook, N.Y.) in the Friday and Saturday starting slots, respectively. Kay is fourth in the country with a 1.01 ERA and holds a 66:14 strikeout-to-walk ratio, while Cross comes in at fifth in the nation with 79 strikeouts and is top-20 nationally with a 1.44 ERA. Jordan Tabakman (Pompton Plains, N.J.) rounds out the rotation with a 3.98 ERA and closer Patrick Ruotolo (Peabody, Mass.) has 32 strikeouts in 16.1 innings along with a .153 batting average against.
East Carolina comes into the weekend with a 22-15 record, a game behind the Huskies with a 4-5 mark in league action. Luke Lowery leads the Pirates at the dish with a .355 average, eight home runs and 32 RBIs. Travis Watkins is batting .349 and Hunter Allen checks in at .333, helping the Pirates to a .294 team batting average. ECU holds a team ERA of 2.82 and weekend starters David Lucroy (2-2, 1.62 ERA) and Evan Kruczynski (5-2, 2.31 ERA) will be major tests to the Husky bats.
UConn will play East Carolina on two separate occasions this year, also visiting Greenville, N.C. for three with the Pirates on the road from May 1-3. ECU holds a 24-4 edge in the all-time series between the two schools, but the teams have not met during Jim Penders' 12-year run as UConn skipper.
Following the weekend series, UConn returns to J.O. Christian Field on Tuesday, April 21 for a midweek match-up against UMass at 3 p.m.