With Tech's impending regional game versus UConn coming up quickly, FTRS thought it would be a nice idea to get some perspective from the "enemy". Here's what The UConn Blog's Shawn McGrath had to say.
FTRS: What is the general feeling around Connecticut? Are fans expecting a deep run in the postseason after the AAC Championship or is there a more nervous or perhaps apprehensive attitude?
UCB: The general feeling is that this is about where they were going to be. I don’t think too many fans expect a Regional victory and advancement into the Super Regional, especially being placed in powerhouse Florida’s regional. The baseball team was expected to contend for the AAC title, so winning it didn’t come as a huge shock, especially with the way they have been playing since ECU swept them on Commencement Weekend.
FTRS: Congratulations on that AAC Championship victory, by the way. Was that expected of the Huskies this season or were expectations lower or higher?
UCB: Thank you! It was a really fun tournament to watch, save for the St. Petersburg/Clearwater tourism commercial that ran, and I am not exaggerating, every time the games went to break. As I said earlier, this is about where they were supposed to be. They were voted to finish fourth in the standings by the coaches and contend for the tournament title, because, well, it’s the Huskies in the postseason. No matter what team it is, they seem to maximize their opportunities once it becomes single or double-elimination. They did improve on what the coaches expected of them, finishing third in the final standings and took advantage of some of the lower seeded teams getting hot at the right time, knocking both Tulane and ECU out before the final. They had an easier path than some expected- they didn’t play a team seeded higher than fifth- but all that matters is the hardware.
FTRS: What are the Huskies' biggest strengths?
UCB: Starting pitching is what the Huskies ride. Especially throughout the last few weeks, the offense has largely been there. When it hasn’t, the starting pitching has been there to pick up the slack. The Friday starter, Anthony Kay, is projected to go at the back end of the first round or in the sandwich round in this year’s MLB Draft and UConn's Saturday starter, Tim Cate, was the AAC Rookie Pitcher of the Year. The typical Sunday guy, Wills Montgomerie, was in the top-20 Nationally at the end of the regular season in K/9. He had a lighter strikeout total in his AAC Tournament start, but is still an elite strikeout pitcher. In a potential fourth game, Ronnie Rossomando or Andrew Zapata would throw, and both were capable midweek guys.
FTRS: How about some weaknesses?
UCB: Especially in the middle of the season, the team was not hitting with runners on and were stranding guys in bunches. In conference play, going into the final weekend, they were leaving 7.75 runners on per game. It’s really hard to win against elite teams when a team leaves eight potential runs on the board. I remember one game where they had the bases loaded three times, but only got one run out of it. Against teams like Florida and Georgia Tech, that just can’t happen. The big key is to maximize the chances when they are given and they sometimes do not do that.
FTRS: Who are a couple of players that Tech should watch out for on Friday?
UCB: On the offensive side, two-hole hitter Willy Yahn is hitting .319 and leads the team in doubles (19) and triples (4). He also is one of the best defensive player on the team, regularly making me think, "wow" about his defense at third. Cleanup hitter Joe-DeRoche-Duffin has 17 home runs on the season. He is tied for 16th nationally and is seven off the national lead. On the pitching side, closer Pat Ruotolo is 11/11 in save opportunities, has a 95 mph fastball and has a WHIP of less than 1.00. UConn is undefeated (34-0) when leading after eight innings and has only lost once (30-1) when leading after seven and he is a large reason why.
FTRS: Does UConn have a go-to ace for big games? If so, should we expect to see him?
UCB: Anthony Kay, AAC Pitcher of the Year, is the go-to pitcher. (Ed. Note: The Q&A was conducted prior to UConn's formal announcement of a starting pitcher, but Shawn notified me that southpaw Tim Cate will be getting the start tomorrow for the Huskies.)