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Catching Up With UConn Baseball

Monday, February 25, 2008

"Yeah, sure, I'd be happy to do a blog for our website, if you think it will be good for our fans. It'll be fun."

Those were my words to our Athletic Communications contact, Kristen Altieri, a few weeks ago. We were just getting practice underway and it seemed like a way to make the season come faster. The first two actually were fun to do. This one will be as much fun as watching the post-Oscars coverage this week as my wife commandeers the remote control. Then again, listening to Joan Rivers talk about beaded bodices can't be as bad as reliving the start of our season, can it?

We are 0-3. And the stat sheet doesn't lie. We drove in three runs in three games and our starting pitching averaged four innings pitched this weekend in Florida. We competed okay in our first two contests and had chances to win against No. 6 Missouri and Stetson on Friday and Saturday.

On Sunday, I woke, got my run in and felt good about our chances to close out the weekend on a high note with a "W". I packed my bag and prepared for battle while watching the classic D-Day movie, "The Longest Day". As we checked out of the Holiday Inn and headed to Stetson's beautiful ballpark, little did I know how ironic it would be that I chose that flick. After an 11-1 drubbing at the hands of an impressive Michigan State lineup, our day was plenty long enough.

There were some positives, though. The showers at the ballpark didn't run out of hot water and our bus driver, T.W., got us from the park to the Orlando airport without getting lost. My credit card wasn't denied and we were able to pay for all the rooms.

Our director of baseball operations, Ryan Marcoux, managed to get the meals, laundry and logistics done without any hiccups. And, aside from a scary few minutes with our leftfielder Pete Fatse colliding with our centerfielder, Harold Brantley, nobody was hurt - except maybe for our pride.

Back in my high school days at East Catholic, my old coach, my dad, would huddle the team before games and say, "Let's all pray that everyone gives 100 percent and nobody is injured."



I still say the same one my dad offered before those high school games in my head before we take the field. And, you know what, as bad as we looked at times this weekend, my prayers were answered. I didn't question our effort. If anything, we may have pressed and tried too hard at times. There wasn't one guy in our dugout that gave less than 100 percent. With zero injuries and everyone giving all they had, I suppose I should be thankful, and down deep somewhere, beneath the embarrassed fog and nausea that accompany an 11-1 defeat on getaway day, I'm sure I am. That effort will pay off.

Now, our challenge is how to apply that effort to the task of improving this week. With an hour bus ride, a two hour wait for takeoff in the Orlando Airport, a three hour flight and a one hour bus ride back from the Providence Airport yesterday, the time for introspection was voluminous. Initially, I tried to avoid that self-analysis by: 1. sleeping on the bus until I continued to wake myself from a recurring nightmare in a cold sweat by asking how many pitches another reliever needed to be ready. 2. soo-thing my wounds by stuffing my face with a tryptophan/butterfat/sugar combination salve of barbecued turkey leg, Ben & Jerry's mint chocolate chunk waffle cone and sour peach candy at our gate in the airport, and 3. doing some internet searching and finding several other 0-3 teams in the country (misery loves company).

Of course, denial gives way to acceptance, and eventually, with an uncommonly dry mouth somewhere over Georgia and between deliveries of Wheat Thins, extra salty peanuts and when my meager four-ounce ginger ale finally arrived, I snapped myself out of it, and began to plot a recovery. First, I needed some perspective. So, without the internet on the flight, I did some Penders intra-cranial searching and remembered that the last time we won a BIG EAST championship, we began the season 0-3. Then, I thought about the three games this weekend and realized we played good infield defense in each of them (something we emphasized in the preseason).

We got some quality relief performances from John Folino, Erik Turgeon, Trent DeLazzer, Doug Jennings and Maxx Catapano. We had leads in all three games against very well-coached and talented teams. We played four and five rookies at a time throughout the weekend. Several of our freshmen had our best at-bats, and we gave up runs in just 7 of 25 innings pitched.

Finally, we formulated a plan for the week ahead. We will focus on improving our offense (it will help to have all our position players available for the first time this coming weekend) and will re-evaluate who are our best three starting pitchers with our next auditions coming with three games this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at UNC-Greensboro.

Yesterday is yesterday. The sun actually did come up this morning, and we have a chance to get better again. We'll do it despite the unwelcome sight of snow blanketing Storrs, and we'll do it because we have 53 more regular season games to show that we are a good team, and can accomplish our goals. We'll do it because, just like this blog, we promised we would. There isn't any time to feel sorry for ourselves. I'm going to go throw some batting practice. Gotta sweat out last night's therapy dinner and start to get better. It's going to be a long BP. It wasn't fun, but it's done.

- Jim Penders