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HOUSTON -- Set to close the regular season, the UConn baseball team (33-20, 11-10 American) visits league-leading and nationally-ranked Houston (36-17, 13-8 American) for three contests beginning on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. (ET). The Huskies and Cougars continue their series on Friday night, also at 7:30 p.m. (ET) before concluding the regular season on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. (ET).
The Huskies are currently in a logjam of a four-way tie for third place in The American, with five teams all within striking distance of taking the top spot in the regular season standings from the Cougars. Seeding for the upcoming American Athletic Conference Championship remains up for grabs, with UConn able to finish anywhere between first and seventh in the league standings depending on this weekend's outcomes.
UConn and Houston met four times last year in the inaugural season of The American. After the Cougars swept a three-game set from the Huskies in Storrs, UConn picked up a conference tournament win against the eventual title-winning Cougars. In pool play on May 24, Jon Testani (Monroe, Conn.) hit a solo home run as part of a three-hit day and Vinny Siena (Woodbridge, Conn.) drove in a pair to pace UConn to a 7-2 victory. Anthony Kay (Stony Brook, N.Y.) fired 3.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen to record an 11-out save and seal the upset over the No. 12 Cougars.
Siena leads the Huskies across the board offensively in 2015, as the All-America hopeful is batting .362 with seven home runs, 50 RBIs and 61 runs scored. The second baseman is currently fifth in the country in runs scored and sixth in the nation with 85 hits on the year, both marks top-10 in a single season in UConn history. Behind Siena, freshman Willy Yahn (Sharon, Conn.) is batting .359 and reigning NEIBA New England Player of the Year Bobby Melley (Barnstable, Mass.) is riding a red-hot streak at the dish to raise his season average to .327 to go along with 17 doubles.
In the power department, Joe DeRoche-Duffin (Santa Ana, Calif.) leads UConn with nine home runs on the year and has also amassed 11 doubles. Blake Davey (Newport Beach, Calif.) leads The American with 19 two-baggers and has blasted six home runs to drive in 44 runs, including a league-best 24 RBIs in conference play. Max McDowell (North Huntingdon, Pa.) is hitting .306 with seven home runs and Testani has notched six long balls. As a team, UConn is hitting .296 and leads the conference with 370 runs scored (13th nationally) and a .394 on-base percentage (17th nationally).
As good as it has been at the dish, UConn has been equally as impressive on the mound this year as it leads The American and places 11th nationally with a 2.89 team ERA. Carson Cross (Brentwood, N.H.) and Kay were both named to the National Pitcher of the Year watch list in April and Cross added a spot on the Golden Spikes Award final watch list earlier this month. Cross is 10-2 with a 2.15 ERA and a league-leading 103 strikeouts on the year, while Kay is 7-5 with a 2.00 ERA and a league-best 0.98 WHIP. Out of the pen, closer Patrick Ruotolo (Peabody, Mass.) has struck out 44 batters in 29.2 innings and recorded six saves.
Houston hosts UConn to close the regular season with a 36-17 record on the year, currently first in The American with a 13-8 record in league play. The Cougars are led at the dish by Chris Iriart, who is tops on the team with a .313 batting average, 11 doubles, 14 home runs and 39 RBIs. Josh Vidales is hitting .307 behind Iriart and leads the squad with 44 runs scored, tied with Kyle Survance in runs. Survance has also added 28 stolen bases, while Vidales and Jacob Campbell are tied for second on the team with 35 RBIs. The Cougars hold a team ERA of 3.05, second in The American behind only the Huskies. Friday starter Andrew Lantrip is 7-3 with a 2.28 ERA, leading the team with 86 strikeouts in 90.2 innings pitched. Seth Romero has pitched in several roles for UH and is tops on the squad with a 1.75 ERA in 67.0 innings.
Following the series at Houston, The American Championship begins on Tuesday, May 19. The tournament is returning to a double-elimination format and will be held in Clearwater, Fla., site of UConn's improbable run from eight-seed to the tournament title in 2013.