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Sorenson: Kay, UConn And Much More

Analysis

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NORTHRIDGE, Calif. — Before today’s 8:59 am game between Connecticut and William & Mary, as I was walking around near the fence where the Huskies were warming up, pitching coach Josh MacDonald came up to me and said, “You are going to see something special today.”

I knew exactly what he was talking about without him even saying it.

Even at 8 a.m., there were numerous scouts already out at Matador Field in Northridge just to watch Husky starting pitcher Anthony Kay warm up. The projected first-round draftee is something special, especially to the play-for-pay boys.

Well, unfortunately it wasn’t a no-hitter type of day or a 20-strikeout type of day. To be honest, Kay didn’t need to be anything special, his offense took care of that. To say that UConn wielded some hot bats would be like saying Kate Upton is “kinda cute.” The Huskies mauled the Tribe arms for a resounding 18-1 win as they blasted out 17 hits, seven of them of the multi-base variety.

UConn players keep themselves relaxed with their pregame ritual.UConn players keep themselves wild and loose with their pregame pepper-like ritual.

It was pretty simple, Zac Susi’s two-run double in the second inning got the scoring wheel turning. An RBI double from nine-hole hitter Aaron Hill made it 3-0 in the fourth inning. And a three-run fifth inning made this one a boat race.

As if that wasn’t enough, Willy Yahn’s grand slam as part of a nine-run sixth inning turned the boat race into a regatta off the shores of Mystic. It may be off-the-radar for the pro scouts in attendance but Yahn was actually the story of the game, going 4-for-6 with five RBI including the aforementioned grand slam which turned this game into a laugher. Coach Penders calls Yahn a “high energy player” after getting named a Freshman All American last year when he hit .343. Yahn certainly made his share of good defensive plays at the hot corner today as well.

Anthony Kay had some solid defense behind him, particularly third baseman Willy Yahn.Anthony Kay had some solid defense behind him, particularly third baseman Willy Yahn, who looks like he’s 4-feet tall in this picture but he actually played quite large in the field today.

Now, back to Anthony Kay. The junior lefty was solid, for sure. He threw the ball hard (91-92 most of the time with an occasional 95 from what I was told) and he kept the ball low. It seemed like his zone was anywhere from the batter’s shoelaces to the high ankle. He would work in an odd slider or cutter from time to time, and had success with them as well.

Husky starter Anthony Kay was locked in from the first pitch 'til the ninth inning today. Husky starter Anthony Kay was locked in from the first pitch ’til the ninth inning today.

It was a good bounce-back game for A.K. after he suffered the loss in the series opener last Friday at Liberty, giving up seven runs on eight hits in 5.0 innings of work.

“Last weekend he wasn’t quite himself,” head coach Jim Penders said of staff ace. “It was good to see him rebound. I thought his stuff looked good. He was missing his spots a little bit near the end of the game, but he handled everything very well.”

Kay actually had a no-hitter going through the first four innings of today’s game and sent the Tribe down three-up, three-down four times, along with a pair of four-up, three-downs.

The Tribe finally started to swing down low and connect on a handful of hits, especially late in the game. Kay ended up giving up 10 hits, of which, seven of them were bloop-like duck snorts or infield singles that rattled off the handle of the bat. You could see Kay getting a little frustrated after each hit, something coach Penders wants to see him get over.

“He was frustrated a little today,” Penders said. “He gave up a couple hits off the handles and off the end of the bats and also a couple of infield hits. Going forward I don’t want to see him get frustrated over things like that.”

He finally got lifted after giving up three singles to start the ninth inning. But of course by that time the score was 18-1. Come on.

“He was right at his pitch count for the day,” Penders said. “We didn’t want to see him go over 120, it’s a long season and we liked where he was at, so we had to pull him in the ninth.”

Kay was efficient enough, throwing 115 pitches, 74 of them for strikes. Well, actually it seemed like 107 of them were strikes.

Either way, this seemed to be more of the Anthony Kay that the scouts came to see. And you could tell by the way the mass exodus of scouts from behind home plate filed out of the stands the minute Kay got pulled in the ninth inning.

"C'mon Mannnn!" Anthony Kay's body language shows he's not all that crash-hot about being pulled in the ninth inning.“C’mon Mannnn!” Anthony Kay’s body language shows he’s not all that crash-hot about being pulled in the ninth inning.

I talked to coach Penders about his team in general after the game and he gave them glowing remarks.

“I like this team. I really do,” he said. “There is not one guy that I look at before a practice or before a game or before a lift where I say to myself that I don’t want to see that guy today. That’s very rare. I do enjoy these guys a lot, we’ve got a good mix of young and old. Everybody seems to know their roles and they’ve got good chemistry. I took 33 guys on this trip and I never do that. I don’t want to make decisions on redshirts too early and I really do enjoy them all, so that’s a really good sign about this team.”

I asked coach Penders one of the obvious questions about his now 7-4 team, the comparison with some of his better teams from a few years ago.

“We’re not nearly as talented as those teams from 2010 and 2011,” he said. “But I think our chemistry is just as strong as those teams. These guys really do work hard. I think Bobby Melley and Joe DeRoche-Duffin are two of the best power hitters in the country. We like to dictate the rhythm and the tempo of the game, which is why we were stealing bases early on today. Our leadoff guy Jack Sundberg has a lot of speed so we’ll use him to set the tone whenever we can. Our rotation hasn’t really set itself yet but we’ve got a lot of depth in this pitching corps. We just have to figure out who is going to be our rotation in the next few weeks.”

UConn coach Jim Penders calls leadoff hitter Jack Sundberg "one of the best leadoff hitters in the country." He stole 34 bases last season and got one today as well.UConn coach Jim Penders calls leadoff hitter Jack Sundberg “one of the best leadoff hitters in the country.” He stole 34 bases last season and got one today as well.

Ain't that grand. Willy Yahn gets props for his sixth inning grand slam vs. William & Mary.Ain’t that grand.Willy Yahn gets props for his sixth inning grand slam vs. William & Mary.

William & Mary first baseman Charley Gould camps under a rather harmless pop fly.William & Mary first baseman Charley Gould camps under a rather harmless pop fly.

The William & Mary defense got to know the UConn players pretty well after all the base-runners and pitching changes on their hands.The William & Mary defense got to know the UConn players pretty well after all the base-runners and pitching changes on their hands.

Now let’s take a spin around the country and check out the good and the bad from Friday’s action in college baseball.

THREE UP
The best of the day in college baseball

1- The Perfect Game.
Wright State’s Jesse Scholtens threw the first perfect game in the history of Raiders baseball in a 1-0 win over Dayton. Scholtens finished the game with 12 strikeouts and – of course – no walks, no balks, no muss, no fuss. This was also the first no-hitter since Darrell Back pulled the trick against Valparaiso in May of 1993. By the way, kudos to Mason Kutruff and Andy Cline of the Flyers who combined for a two-hitter and seven Ks in a losing effort.

2- Lantrip Lights ‘Em Up, Davis Helps.
Houston starting pitcher Andrew Lantrip won a highly-anticipated pitching showdown with Geoffrey Bramblett at Alabama, getting the better of the Crimson Tide with a 13-K, six-hit, zero-walk performance on the mound in a 3-1 Cougar win. Lantrap went 8.0 innings while his highly-touted counterpart, Bramblett, lasted just 4.1 innings, giving up four hits and four walks. UofH is now 7-5 while the Tide dropped to 10-3. Lantrip threw 105 pitches with 73 of them being strikes. The Cougars scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning to account for the winning runs. Joe Davis, who is just a freshman, hit a home run and a double on his way to a two-RBI performance.

3- Will Craig’s Yard Calls. 
For the second home game in a row the Wake Forest slugger slammed a pair of home runs as the Demon Deacons set down No. 20 Clemson 6-4 at David Couch Ballpark. Back on Sunday he hit two home runs i a win over Richmond. Craig finished with four RBI and is now hitting .458 on the season. But as if his muscle-bound performance at the dish wasn’t enough, Craig also notched his third save of the 2016 season by tossing the final 2.0 innings on the mound.

Honorable Mentions
– These Eagles are screaming. 
Boston College went down to Raleigh with a 10-2 mark and a lot of raised eyebrows, mine included. Well today the Eagles proved a little something by breezing past No. 8 North Carolina State by a 7-0 count. Mike King went seven innings and Bobby Skogsbergh tossed the final two innings as they combined for eight Ks and giving up no walks and eight hits. The last time B.C. beat a top 10 team was in 2012 when they routed No. 1 Florida State 17-6.

– The Saves Man
Louisiana reliever Dylan Moore equaled the program career saves record with his 16th save in tonight’s 4-2 win at Troy. Moore, just a sophomore, tallied his third save of the year for the Cajuns after throwing an inning of hitless, scoreless, walk-less, error-less ball. He faced three batters and struck out all three of them. The Cajuns won the game with a pair of runs in the top of the ninth inning keyed by Ishmael Edwards’ RBI double.

–  The Gass Way.
Arkansas senior Cullen Gassaway sure has helped the Razorbacks save some egg on their face in the last five days. Tonight, in a rainy, low-50s night in Fayetteville, Gassaway added his second jog-off hit this week with an RBI single in the 10th inning vs. Western Illinois. Back on Sunday, Gassaway hit an RBI single to beat pesky Eastern Illinois by the same 3-2 score.

– Cowbell Tolls
Mississippi State has been up and down all season, including a 1-1-1 showing in the DodgerTown Classic last weekend. But tonight, all bets were off as the Bulldogs put a serious hurting on No. 9 Oregon 10-4 in front of . A five-run eighth inning for the Bulldogs, keyed by Cody Brown’s grand slam signaled the death knell for the visiting Ducks.

– Bianco Wins No. 700
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco earned his 700th win with today’s 15-2 win over Grambling State. It also happened to be his 600th win as the head coach of the Rebels. The Rebs have now won their eighth straight game and have jumped on their opponents early, having a 25-6 advantage in scoring for the first inning of games this season.

– No Doubting Thomas
Georgia Southern’s Hunter Thomas only had one hit in today’s 13-3 win vs. Appalachian State, yet he ended the game with five RBI thanks to a second inning grand slam and a fifth inning bases-loaded walk.

– Sheffield’s Arm
Vanderbilt’s Jordan Sheffield was dealing big time tonight for the ‘Dores. He pitched into the eighth inning, striking out 12 Xavier Musketeers and giving up just three hits as VU put the anchor on the X in a 7-0 win.

THREE DOWN
The worst of the day in college baseball

1- Mother Nature 
As Elton John might say, looks like the bitch is back. After giving her all my love for being so kind for most of the first three weeks of the season, she showed her ugly side today with games cancelled from California to Texas to Mississippi to Florida. In all, 19 games were cancelled or postponed from today’s schedule. C’mon lady, give us a little break here on Saturday and Sunday. Stop being a big fat jerk.

2- Some Of The ACC Blue Bloods
Some high profile programs took it on the chin here today.

– Georgia Tech
Ack! The Jackets came into the weekend with a record of 12-0, but having faced a schedule that was ranked 195th in the country. Sure enough, their first real test of the season sees them lose 8-2 at Florida State. The Seminoles smashed four home runs on the day.

– Miami
The Canes went out of their South Florida comfort zone and looked like it. Virginia Tech treated the Hurricane arms like rag dolls, particularly Tom Stoffel, who went 4-for-5 with a pair of two-run singles. Nick Anderson added a 2-for-5 day, topped off by a first inning grand slam. Both Techsters added five RBI to the attack.

– North Carolina State
As mentioned above, the Pack got whacked at home by a bunch of snowbirds, by a resounding 7-0 score too. Aye-yaye-yaye.

– Clemson.
We praised the Tigers on high after last week’s series win vs. South Carolina. Now we’ve gotta smack ‘em while they deserve it, as you read above, Will Craig dominated the Tigers in a 6-4 win, with two home runs and two innings of shut-down pitching.

3- Rice Gets Steamed Again.
Oy vey. My beloved Owls are hurting. Today, in a key showdown with No. 16 East Carolina, the Owls bowed down meekly with a 10-1 loss. The Pirates Kirk Morgan went 3-for-5 with three RBI on the day to key the 13-hit attack. The Owls now fall to a losing mark at 6-7 on the season as ECU improves to 11-3.

Dishonorable Mentions
– Western Illinois. 
Poor Leathernecks. They went toe-to-toe with big-money Arkansas at Baum Stadium, including tying the game 2-2 in the ninth inning off All American reliever Zach Jackson, all while holding the Razorbacks to just three hits. But as mentioned above, a 10th-inning RBI single cost them a chance at what would’ve been a stellar upset. The ‘Necks came in with a 2-8 record, yet having a chance to beat the No. 14 ranked team in the country, only to come up short. Pain.

– LSU.
The Ball State Cardinals dusted the snow off their gloves and went down to Baton Rouge and took game one of the three-game series from the Tigers with a confidence-building 7-1 rout of the Tigers. Catcher Jarret Rindfleisch notched two home runs to pace the offense, which finished with four ding-dongs in all. LSU entered the game on a six-game win streak and had scored nine runs or more in five of those games.

– UCLA’s Lack of Clutch
In tonight’s 7-5 loss to Texas, the Bruins went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. No other stats need to be written here.

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