CHATHAM ---- The University of Connecticut has become synonymous with basketball powerhouse. Both the women’s and men’s teams are national powers every year and draw huge media attention. Down the street and around the corner from Gampel Pavillion is the baseball field.
This season, J.O. Christian Field was home to a Huskies baseball program that won a school-record 48 games and advanced to the NCAA Regional in Norwich, Conn. Many of the players on that team have made their way to the Cape this summer in search of more victories. Joe Pavone and Kevin Vance have both landed in Chatham and are contributing nicely early on for the Anglers.
“They are very good players,” Chatham field manager John Schiffner said. “That’s why UConn had such a great season. They are solid players and are well-coached. They are coming here with a good approach.”
It’s hard not to notice the two through the first 15 games of the season. Pavone leads the Anglers with a .355 average and has also driven in four runs. Vance has been equally impressive from the pitching rubber. The right-hander has not allowed a run in six innings and has picked up three saves. Offensively, he has struggled with only three hits, but one was a walk-off three-run home run last week.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Pavone said. “This league is the best of the best. I am just happy to be here and be a part of it.”
Pavone and Vance are two of nine Huskies on the Cape this summer. George Springer, LJ Mazzilli and Matt Barnes are playing with Wareham, Mike Nemeth, Will Jolin and Nick Ahmed are with Bourne and Elliot Glynn pitches for Orleans. All of these players had key roles for UConn this spring.
“I have watched the program for decades,” Schiffner said. “It has always been an outstanding program. They have always gotten the job done. Praise should go to (coach) Jim (Penders) and his staff for recruiting that type of player and getting them into the Cape League.”
As for the players, they are just excited to get a chance to compete against some of the best players in the country.
“I’m going to be a senior and just playing here has been a dream for me,” Pavone said. “Being able to contribute to a team down here has been a dream for me and Kev (Vance) and Kev’s been our closer here and been dominating.”
While UConn is hoping its success is not a flash in a bottle, they are also hoping to make an imprint on the league. Neither Pavone nor Schiffner are surprised at the results and both think things will only get better.
“Well, they should be (here), they had a fine team,” Schiffner said. “It shows Northeast baseball is getting a little better.”
Pavone echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“I think we have a lot of young talent on the team,” he said. “There have been 10 guys here each year, it feels like. Hopefully, we can make a name for the Northeast.”
While the verdict is still out on the Northeast, Pavone and Vance have been stamped, sealed and approved.