Ahead of the final regular season series, The Daily Stampede chats with their counterpart TheUConnBlog about what to look for out of the Huskies as both teams close out the 2016 regular season.
TDS: What is the team’s biggest strength?
McGrath: UConn doesn’t really have a "strength", but I am going to say starting pitching is the most vital to success. Anthony Kay is a potential first round draft pick with a BAA of .214 and a WHIP of 1.10, Tim Cate is a freshman lefty who, while roughed around a bit lately, has had dominant starts that last into the late innings and Wills Montgomerie is ranked 18th nationally in K/9 with 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings. While this trio has a combined record of 12-6, if they don’t pitch well, the team doesn’t usually play well.
TDS: Biggest weakness?
McGrath: The team’s biggest weakness, by far, is hitting with runners on base. They have left 155 runners on in 20 conference games, averaging 7.75 per game. The only time they don’t leave runners on, they are just not getting hits. For example, they left 12 on during Sunday’s game, leaving the bases loaded three times and only scoring one run during those opportunities.
TDS: What does the weekend rotation look like?
McGrath: I would expect the weekend rotation, as it has been for much of the season, to be Anthony Kay, a junior lefty for Thursday’s game, freshman lefty Tim Cate Friday and redshirt sophomore right hander Wills Montgomerie. I doubt they will deviate from this, especially with Kay, the clear ace, having to pitch on Tuesday if all goes well this weekend and we win the regular season title.
TDS: How will they beat USF in this series?
McGrath: UConn will beat the Bulls by utilizing the home run ball and riding the bullpen late in games. Joe DeRoche-Duffin, a senior outfielder, has 16 home runs this season, three off the national lead. UConn is 56th nationally in at .82 home runs per game. They are also 10-1 when hitting more than two or more home runs and their late inning comebacks have been fueled by the long ball. As for the bullpen, they are typically shut-down, as long as they come in for clean innings. When the bullpen comes on with multiple runners on to put out a fire, those runs typically score. And if the Huskies get to the ninth with a lead, forget about it. They are 26-0 with a lead after eight innings and Pat Ruotolo, the closer, is 6/6 in save opportunities, with a .198 BAA and a WHIP of 0.88, with 33 strikeouts in only 27 innings. The other reliever who gets save opportunities, Randy Polonia, is also 6/6 on the season. It is also hard to mount an eighth inning comeback, with UConn being 22-1 with the lead after seven full.