Connecticut Huskies vs. Boston College Eagles
First Pitch: 3 PM
When the 2016 season schedule came out, the Boston College Eagles knew they'd have a long haul to start things off. As is the case with most northern schools, each week took them south to avoid any potential weather issues, with the first home game coming well after the season's first game.
With a relatively mild winter - especially in comparison to last year's blizzard-after-blizzard-after-blizzard approach - you can imagine the surprise a couple of weeks ago when Mother Nature stepped in with a rainstorm that postponed the home opener against Holy Cross. A trip to Clemson and a trip to Pittsburgh later, and all of a sudden, Boston College played 21 games before they set foot on their own stadium grass.
All of that changes today. With Florida State on the horizon, BC will welcome an opponent to the Birdcage in the form of the Connecticut Huskies.
Record: 11-11 (0-0 American)
Last Time Out: The Huskies, who still haven't opened up league play in the American, played three games against Columbia. On Friday, they traveled to New York City, losing 4-3 to the Lions, before turning around and sweeping a doubleheader at home with a pair of victories (3-0, 4-3). That brought the team back to .500, including a 3-1 record at home.
Following the BC game, the Huskies will return home to open conference play against Tulane.
Around The Horn
UConn isn't a great hitting team, but they wield some power in the middle of the lineup. Willy Yahn leads the way with a .337 batting average and 33 total hits. His hits total is second best among qualifying hitters in the AAC. He is a solid all-around hitter, with 51 total bases and a .520 slugging percentage to go along with two homers, two triples, and eight doubles. He's scored 21 runs - second best on the team.
Bobby Melley also brings some pop to the lineup, right behind Yahn with a .519 slugging percentage. Melley enters the day with 24 runs batted in, 42 total bases, eight doubles, and a team-high four homers. He leads the team with 24 RBI.
The majority of the UConn lineup hits between .250 and .300. Jack Sundberg is hitting .309, but besides him and Yahn, nobody is over the mark. They're evened out by Joe DeRoche-Duffin and Aaron Hill among regular players (.202 and .109, respectively). Everyone else is between .268 (Tyler Gnesda) and .292 (Bryan Daniello), a difference between a hit here and there.
BC will counter with Thomas Lane. The freshman hasn't started since the Snowbird Classic but has been the top early reliever out of the bullpen as the #4 guy.
On The Bump
Tim Cate is by far the team's best arm. In four appearances (three of which were starts), he doesn't have a decision, but his 0.40 ERA is tied with Thomas Hackimer (St. John's) for fourth in the nation (just ahead of Jacob Stevens, who is fifth with a 0.53 ERA). He's allowed one earned run on the year and has a 7:1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio with 35 K's to just five walks in 22.2 innings.
BC is probably going to miss Cate because the Huskies will need him against Tulane. It also means they miss Anthony Kay and Ronnie Rossomando, both of whom were weekend starters against the Lions.
It does mean the Eagles may run into Andrew Zapata. Zapata, who is 2-1 on the year in five starts, has a 6.63 ERA in 19 innings thrown. William Montgomerie is another option who may see some innings, with a 1-1 record in six appearances with four starts. His 5.49 ERA also ranks in stark contrast to the rest of the weekend starters.
The UConn bullpen is very good, and any one of a whole host of arms could present danger for the Boston College bats, who ran into issues against the starters of both Clemson and Pittsburgh over the weekend. But a good enough showing in the early innings could be just what the doctor ordered, especially at home.
After the mild winter, the rains came a couple of weeks ago and postponed Boston College's game against Holy Cross (it'll be played next week), they came again this week, dumping wet weather across the region.
The good news? It happened on Monday!
We'll still have clouds and raw, cold weather in Boston this week, with temperatures barely tipping into the 50s right around first pitch time. But by the end of the game, they'll have dropped into the low 40s, with overnight lows heading into the 30s.
Perfect Boston baseball weather.
For the first time in 2016, Boston College will play on the Eddie Pellagrini Diamond at John Shea Field.
Nestled behind Alumni Stadium, the stadium will be good and cold for Tuesday's game. For those who are unfamiliar, seating is behind home plate and down the first base line, unless you want to stand on the ramp leading up into the football stadium.
Shea Field measures 330 down the left field line, 400 feet to dead center, and 320 to right.
Music To Listen To As You're Waking Up In Your Own Bed On Game Day
Dropkick Murphys - For Boston.
Is there anything else you would rather hear when you wake up in your own bed on game day than a bunch of bagpipes and heavy guitars?
Probably, but you're in Boston. Play your fight song loud. Play your fight song proud.
Random Fact(s) of the Week
UConn is 64-53 all-time against the Boston College Eagles in a series that dates back to 1909.
BC is playing their third former Big East rival this season. On February 28th, they played Villanova as part of the Snowbird Classic, and they played Pittsburgh this past weekend. They have a three game series against Notre Dame in mid-April out in South Bend.
In 2010, UConn won the Big East Championship to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. They were a #2 seed that season in a regional headlined by Florida State, but the regional was hosted at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, CT. It was the last time a team hosted a regional that was not the top seed in their bracket (although there have been other teams who played in regionals not close to their campus), and it was the last regional hosted in New England.
That regional actually had two Connecticut teams in it. The Huskies were joined by the fourth-seeded Central Connecticut State Blue Devils. After both Nutmeg State schools lost in the first round, they played an elimination game against each other, with the Huskies winning, 25-2. UConn would be eliminated by Oregon, losing to them in the next round for a second time in the bracket. FSU went undefeated and won the bracket to host a Super Regional in Tallahassee.
UConn head coach Jim Penders won his 400th career game this past weekend in the doubleheader against Columbia.
UConn is a solid program run, and they're annually the biggest threat to Boston College in terms of being "New England's premier college baseball team." They've been to the national tournament multiple times, and they've been twice since 2010. Playing in the Big East/AAC, they played in a tough, northeast conference, and now they've transitioned into a league where they're capable of winning. They're punching in their own weight class, as opposed to the Eagles who are building to punch in the biggest weight class in the nation.
But this is a game where I think the Eagles should be able to pick up a victory. If BC was playing the everyday starters, I would think UConn would have a very good chance to win this game because I think they're a good team. But facing the depth players, BC should win this game.