June 21, 2012
Back on March 27, the Huskies hosted intrastate rival Hartford for an afternoon game at J.O. Christian Field. It was the second home contest for freshman Eric Yavarone and the first for Connor David, who came on to catch the eighth and ninth inning. The game was played in front of a generous crowd of 147, lasted three hours and 12 minutes, while the temperature felt no where near the low 40s registered in the games official boxscore.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Yavarone and David took the field for the Mystic Schooners of the New England Collegiate Baseball League. The crowd was a bit smaller than that day in Storrs, but the most noticeable difference was the temperature. At first pitch, the sun covered the entire field at Fitch High School in Groton, Conn. as the temperature pushed into the mid 90s.
The Schooners, who are just 1-10 through the first two weeks of the season, fell behind early as the visiting New Bedford Bay Sox strung together four consecutive two-out hits in the second inning to claim a 6-0 lead. Ultimately, Mystic trailed 15-0 before pushing across three runs in the bottom of the ninth to fall 15-3.
Perhaps the lone relief of the night came from the breeze off of Long Island Sound, blowing out to right center field, which provided some comfort in the hot summer heat.
The key to getting off on the right foot and surviving in the NECBL is the ability to adapt and adjust. Aside from dealing with the changes in weather, the adjustment from the metal bats of the college game to wood bats is crucial and sometimes challenging, especially for players coming off their first spring of college baseball.
“I think getting used to the wood bats [is a challenge] after training all season with the metal we use in college,” said Yavarone. “The wood is a little heavier and you have to make your swing a little more precise. I think that was the biggest adjustment as well as playing everyday.”
The NECBL schedule started on June 8 and the Schooners have played 11 games in 13 days. On Tuesday, they traveled to New Hampshire to face the Laconia Muskrats, turned around to play New Bedford at home and will hit the road again on Thursday to face the Muskrats again.
“We’re playing a lot more games in a short amount of time,” stated David. “That’s the biggest things, is just adjusting to the schedule.”
“It’s a grind everyday,” added Yavarone.
Yavarone, who batted in five different spots for UConn this spring, started in left field and batted fifth, one of the spots he did not see action in for the Huskies. In his first two at-bats, he laced a base hit up the middle and pounded a ball through the left side for his second hit of the game. Yavarone finished 2-for-3, lifting his average to .293 (12-for-41) on the season.
For David, it has been a struggle at the plate so far. After playing part-time as a catcher and a left-handed bat off the bench in the spring, he has seen more opportunities to play regularly with Mystic. On Wednesday, David was 0-for-3 and is just 2-for-21 on the young season.
“I learned a lot this year from Joe [Pavone], even though I wasn’t catching as much [as in the past],” started David. “You get a good feel for everything when you watch the game and play it too. I’ve been able to apply that here.”
In the late stages of the game, right-handed pitcher Max Slade got up in the bullpen for the Schooners. Slade was also a freshman for Connecticut this season, despite not seeing any action on the field. He came on in the eighth inning for his third appearance of the season and pitched a hitless inning, while striking out one batter and hitting another.
The three Huskies make up over half of the Connecticut baseball players currently in the NECBL. Left-handed pitcher David Mahoney plays for the defending champion Keene Swamp Bats and right-handed pitcher Stephen Catalina is on the opposite end of the state playing with the Danbury Westerners.