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Catching Up With UConn Baseball

June 24, 2009

Monday, March 3, 2008 - My wife says I should have been born forty years earlier given my taste in music. Dean Martin, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong, and even Ella Fitzgerald are digital neighbors in my MP3 player. Although Johnny Cash also resides in my musical neighborhood, country music is the least well-represented genre of tunes playing in my headphones when I jog. However, it was a country song on the public address system that caught my ear as we entered UNC-Greensboro's gorgeous stadium for our series finale yesterday.

I had to look up the artist this morning. His name is Rodney Atkins, and the song I heard as I got to the dugout was entitled, "If You're Going Through Hell". It was the chorus that really got my attention: If you're goin' through hell keep on going Don't slow down if you're scared don't show it You might get out before the devil even knows you're there.

We dropped three games this weekend and are 0-6 on the young season. In the first two games, it did indeed feel like we were going through hell. Our #1 starter, Bob Van Woert, managed to win seven games for us last year as a freshman and he earned the first spot in the rotation after our most effective returning starter, Greg Nappo went down in the off season with Tommy John surgery. Bobby took the mound on Friday and felt something wrong in his elbow during the first inning. He will get checked out by our doctors today and we'll keep our fingers crossed. He didn't tell us he was hurt and didn't appear to be in pain, but he was struggling, and I had to go get him before an out in the first. Moments later, the weekend was underway with a six-spot after one inning for the Spartans. They didn't look back and boat raced us on Friday.

Saturday was better...for a while. Matt McDonald was making his debut start for us. He was drafted by the Detroit Tigers two years ago, and has good stuff, but he struggled with his command early on. Once he settled in, he gave us a chance to win though. He left after the fifth with us down 5-2, and John Folino took over. John had a good sixth, and our bats were starting to turn on. We got it to 5-3 in the seventh, but the wheels came off in the bottom of the seventh and eighth, as we opened the door and the Spartans kicked it off the hinges. We had some fear of failure creep into our collective heads after a couple of miscues, and Mr. Atkins's lyrics rang true. We were scared and showed it. Missed signs, multiple balks, and four errors all added up to ten unearned runs and a 15-6 loss.



We didn't play UConn baseball in the first two games of the weekend. We were competing more against ourselves with mental lapses, fear of making mistakes, free passes and bad at-bats than we were against the team wearing the other uniform.

On Sunday, I was proud that we "kept on going". It was UConn Baseball. Elliott Glynn, our freshman lefty, who also happens to have given us some very good at-bats as an outfielder in the lineup, got the ball, and he didn't disappoint. He struck out the first two hitters he faced and didn't look back. He gave up just two knocks in six innings and was a leader for us in just his second start as a Husky. Two pop-ups dropped in that shouldn't have, but they didn't hurt us, and we played errorless Husky baseball. A great relay was executed to cut down the Spartans' leadoff man trying for a triple in the eighth, and I thought we were going to get our first "W" of 2008. Of course, thinking and doing aren't quite the same.

We still didn't get the timely hit and our quality at-bats were in low supply again. Our closer, Matt Karl, came on in the bottom of the eighth and got off to a good start, but he walked the leadoff man in the ninth, and a very good UNCG club swept us with a walk-off single.

We still have a lot to figure out. Our offense is sputtering and our starting rotation has yet to take shape. Our rookie hitters are at the top of the stat sheet, and that is a positive, but some of our veterans are pressing and their performances are suffering as a result. The players are still in the process of making out the lineup. They are the ones who will ultimately determine who plays, hits and pitches when and where. Performances will determine roles, and right now we have too many roles to fill and too few quality performances to gauge.

The road won't get easier, as we head to West Palm on Friday and face off against Air Force, Ohio State, Penn, and Penn State (twice) before opening the BIG EAST season at Georgetown. Air Force just knocked off Mississippi State, and we'll need a good week of practice to get ready for a trip in which we'll play eight games in nine days. Baseball is meant to be played every day, and we've always seemed to play our best ball when in rhythm and outside every day. We'll trust that a steady schedule of play will result in answers to the many questions we have before opening up our BIG EAST schedule with the Hoyas.

The guys are managing to keep their heads up despite our poor start. Better days are ahead as long as we can stay together and keep on going. We just might get out before the devil even knows we're there.

- Jim Penders