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Catching Up With UConn Baseball

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A word of advice to anyone wondering if it'd be a good idea to start a blog: staring at a blank screen and watching the cursor blink incessantly from its arrogant perch at the top left of the page does not help one compose an idea for typing on said screen.

Now the cursor is at the end of that last sentence. It looks like its laughing at me. There it goes again. I swear, if it had a nose and a hand, its thumb would be on the nose and four fingers would be wiggling at me. Writer's block isn't as bad as standing in the third base coach's box watching your team pop up and hit into double plays, but it does feel similarly helpless. Okay, one paragraph down. Since we've last posted on the site, the Huskies have won four and lost two. We have battled our way back to .500 after an abysmal 0-6 start.

At 10-10, we find ourselves with somewhat of a blank screen of our own. Thirty-six regular season games to go, 3-3 in the Big East, and an even record overall as well. We've earned a chance to define exactly what kind of season we'll have. We have developed a knack for some heroics, and some late-inning drama over the course of our conference schedule, and our youth seems to be emerging as a strength. Our three conference victories have all come in extra innings and as long as you're equipped with a defibrillator, a masseuse, and a therapist, we are fun to watch. That youth and the coaching staff's ventricular rhythms will be tested again today versus a good Yale club and again this weekend as we send three freshmen to the mound to start against Villanova.

Of course, that youth also makes plenty of mistakes. We've had our fair share of base running blunders, missed signs and forgotten uniforms already. Yet, for some reason, it's tough to get mad at the guys having those brain freezes. It's kind of like yelling at a toddler after he sticks his finger in the light socket. He's already gotten shocked. Yelling won't accomplish half of what that experience just taught him.



Over the course of the last six games, our youth has gotten to play in some beautiful stadiums. Sacred Heart's Ballpark at Harbor Yard is always ready early in March and we usually play well in their 5,000+ seat yard. Yesterday, we had a treat in traveling to Worcester for the first time in years to take on the Holy Cross Crusaders. Their stadium at Fitton Field is just a few years old and it is a gorgeous place to play and watch a game. But the crème de la crème is undoubtedly Louisville's Jim Patterson Stadium.

I was fortunate to get a tour of the entire facility the first year we played there and was blown away. From the Diamondvision scoreboard with video, to the covered chair back seats, to the multiple plasma televisions in the clubhouse, to the perfect Field Turf and Cardinal logos everywhere you look, the folks at Louisville did it right. Their stadium is a reflection of their program, and last year, they earned their way to their first-ever trip to Omaha. Dan McDonnell's Cards represented the BIG EAST well and their program has a national reputation.

So, we had our work cut out for us. Our rookie starting pitcher for Thursday's game missed the trip for a violation of team rules. We swung the bats okay in the series opener, but the home team exploded and got the best of us. We played better and had a chance to win on Friday but after a five run explosion in the top of the sixth, Louisville responded with six runs of their own and after an eventual 10-7 loss, we found ourselves down to the last game of the series needing a `W' to avoid a sweep.

On Saturday, Elliot Glynn gave us a quality start and David Erickson was stellar out of the pen, pitching three scoreless innings before handing the ball to our closer, Matt Karl. Matty inherited an 8-4 lead and after giving up one run to make it 8-5, we had two outs and the bases loaded. It looked like the game was in hand when a fly ball was hit toward our rightfielder, Matt Burnett. "Burn" settled under it, went to squeeze the glove and the ball fell to the turf. The Cardinals' third base coach looked like a pinwheel in a windstorm and we went from an 8-5 victory to an 8-8 tie with the go ahead run at third. Matt Karl induced a ground ball and we were in extras.

Burn was visibly and audibly upset with himself and we huddled as a team to try to flush the negative and plan our work for the 10th. In between some less-than-muffled profanity, a glove throw and perhaps a punched dugout, I overheard one of his teammates tell Burn he was going to get the hit to win it for us in that inning. Nobody is a better teammate than Matt Burnett. As bad as he felt about his error, he had twenty-four brothers that felt just as bad for him. After missing a lot of early season games due to a shoulder injury, he stayed positive, worked in his rehab and came back quickly. He hadn't gotten a chance to play until this weekend and he made the most of it. He had quality at-bats and had played good defense up until the drop.

There wasn't much time to feel sorry for ourselves. Matt Karl got a leadoff knock with two strikes on him. Harold Brantley, Jr. managed to salvage his at-bat after missing on two bunt attempts, he doubled to right and Pierre LePage was intentionally walked to bring good ol' Burn to the plate with the sacks drunk and a chance at redemption. With two strikes and a Husky dugout rooting harder than it had all year, Burn came through. A single through the right side scored two, and the six foot, four inch outfielder who felt lower than whale excrement five minutes before looked like he was seven feet tall standing at first base. As I looked across the diamond and flashed him the closed fist to confirm no outs, I thought I heard Yankees broadcaster, John Sterling's signature call of a Bernie Williams homerun in my ear, "Burn baby, burn!"

In baseball, sometimes the team that doesn't deserve to win, wins the game and sometimes it's vice versa. We deserved to win on Saturday, and thanks to Burn we did. The game is one of failure and it can be cruel at times. We may have played an extra inning on Saturday because of Matt Burnett, but Matt Burnett deserved to win the game, and he did. His teammates cheered loudly when we flipped him the game ball in the post-game huddle. Good things do indeed happen to good people.

- Jim Penders