STORRS, CONN. — The New England Baseball Journal Podcast went on the road this weekend with a trip to Doug Elliot Ballpark — home of the UConn Huskies.
At 17-5, the Huskies are off to their best start since 1971. They are currently ranked No. 25 in the nation and have won every series so far this season, including sets against University of Southern California and Pepperdine.
The UConn lineup is laden with players who started their respective careers with other programs before transferring. The top four hitters in UConn’s lineup — Zach Bushling (Sierra College), Erik Stock (Old Dominion), Ben Huber (Limestone College) and Casey Dana (Seton Hall) all transferred to UConn, as did two of the team’s weekend starters — Austin Peterson (Purdue, Wabash Valley Community College) and Enzo Stefanoni (Harvard).
UConn coach Jim Penders explained his philosophy behind recruiting players in the NCAA Transfer Portal.
“We have a lot of first-year players and second-players that are veterans, and I think that’s really been the difference in our start,” Penders said. “We have some guys who have been around the block and have experience. They may not have it in our uniform, but it’s almost like we’re going to battle with men — not boys. We learned in the American Athletic Conference that you can’t win with freshmen.”
UConn is also winning without a potential first-round pick, Reggie Crawford, who suffered an injury to his pitching arm that required Tommy John surgery in the fall. Crawford provided an update on his rehabilitation process and stated his intention of remaining a two-way player even after his return to the diamond. He threw a baseball last week for the first time since his injury.
“It’s honestly not that bad of a process in comparison to what I thought it was going to be like,” Crawford said. “It’s not really as slow because everything is broken up in phases. You’re making each check mark, which is really nice. Throwing is a cherry on top; I forgot how much fun it actually is. I’m still unsure of what’s going to happen, but I’m taking care of the things I can control. I’m taking care of my rehab, my throwing, my body, and then everything else will work itself out. We’ll hit certain bridges when they come. Right now, I’m focused on getting better, throwing, being a good teammate, and watching my team play.”
Stock reflected on his last two seasons with the Huskies, when he’s been the team’s most productive hitter. This season, he’s hitting a team-leading .427 with five home runs and 19 RBI in 21 games.
“What I did is what led me here,” Stock said. “I wouldn’t change a thing. Going through my two years at Old Dominion and then deciding to transfer, it’s been the best three years of my life here, even with COVID. I’m thankful for everything that’s happened, and I just hope to keep it going.”
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