May 20, 2014
CLEARWATER, Fla. – After landing in Florida on Monday morning, the UConn baseball team is set to kick off pool play in the inaugural American Athletic Conference Championship on Wednesday, May 21 at 11 a.m. at Bright House Field. The No. 7 seed Huskies will take on No. 2 seed UCF in their first game before challenging No. 3 Houston on Thursday and No. 6 Temple on Saturday.
The Huskies, who are competing in their 16th-ever conference tournament, return to Bright House Field for the first time since winning their third and final Big East Tournament crown in 2013. With the championship win, the Huskies secured a spot in the 2013 NCAA Tournament and became one of just 31 teams to qualify for the tournament in at least three of the last four seasons. Overall, UConn sports a 32-24 all-time record in conference tournament play and has tallied six wins in its last eight contests.
Since Jim Penders took over as head coach in 2004, the Huskies have played in seven conference tournaments and own a 20-11 (.645) record. UConn has finished as the winner or runner-up on four occasions.
On Monday, the league announced the final edition of its weekly awards and senior lefty Brian Ward (Milford, Conn.) was named to the Honor Roll for the second time this season after tossing his second straight complete game against URI on May 13 at Dodd Stadium. Throughout the regular season, the Huskies had a total of seven Honor Roll selections by five different players and also earned one Player of the Week accolade when Blake Davey (Newport Beach, Calif.) received the honor on April 14. UConn had at least one honor roll selection in three of the final four weeks of the regular season.
Connecticut’s matchup with UCF comes less than a week after the Huskies took two of three in Storrs in the final regular season series of the year. The Huskies earned a spot in The American Championship after taking a pair of one-run games in Thursday’s doubleheader, highlighted by a walk-off single from senior tri-captain Tom Verdi (Warwick, R.I). The Knights own a slight 4-2 edge in the all-time series, which dates back to 2013.
UCF earned the No. 2 seed after finishing with a 17-7 conference record. Eric Skoglund, who was named as The American Pitcher of the Week on four occasions, has been one of the nation’s best pitchers this season, putting together a 9-2 record with a stellar 2.04 ERA. James Vasquez has delivered at the plate, leading the Knights with a .340 batting average to go along with six home runs and a team-best 50 RBI.
On Thursday, the Huskies will face the third-seeded Cougars for the first time since being swept in a three-game set in early May. Houston enters the tournament as winners of seven of its last eight games and leads the conference with a 2.04 team ERA.
After a day off, UConn rounds out pool play on Saturday against Temple at 11 a.m. The Huskies’ series with the Owls dates back to the 1940 season, with the most recent match-up coming in mid-April when Temple took two of three at J.O. Christian Field. The Owls finished the regular season at 14-30 and own a .250 team batting average.
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