Ward Trying to Regain Form

STORRS, Conn. – Brian Ward has proven to be quite an asset to the Connecticut baseball team in his short tenure with the program.

In his freshman season he compiled a 6-1 record while boasting a 3.28 ERA in 60.1 innings of work. After a slight drop-off early this year due to fatigue in his throwing arm, Ward now looks to take a step forward in the second half of the season.

"I'm getting back and I am healthy now so that's good news," Ward said Thursday. "I'm just trying to get back into it, get all my pitches going and my command back."

UConn will host a Big East Conference series against Rutgers this weekend starting with a doubleheader Friday at noon in Storrs. The rain forecast moved Sunday's game to Saturday (noon) at Dodd Stadium in Norwich.

Ward, a lefthander from Milford, will be coming out of the bullpen this weekend. He has appeared in eight games and has a 3-2 record with a 5.30 ERA. While the fatigue in his throwing arm was sighted as the issue, head coach Jim Penders attributes Ward slow start to the fact that the young southpaw has yet to really experience any failures.

"He is a great competitor," Penders said. "He's just learning how to deal with failure for the first time in the game and that is going to be critical for his development not only as a player but as a person.

"He had a really good outing [Thursday in practice] and struck out the side in the first inning he threw against some good hitters. He's got to remember there's a guy with a weapon in the batter's box that's trying to beat him. I think he got away from that and was thinking about everything but that."

As for the fatigue, Ward himself isn't really sure about where it came from.

"We're not really sure," Ward said. "We took good care of my arm so that's all we could really do. It was just one of those fluke things that happen to everyone once in a while."

Heading into this weekend, the Huskies sit alone in second place in the Big East standing and with 11 of their final 17 games coming at home Connecticut now hits a crucial stride of their schedule leading up to the Big East Tournament held in Clearwater, Fla.

Ward will now be featured out of the bullpen and with his ability to be able to throw multiple innings, he should provide Penders a solid long relief option going forward for the remainder of the season.

"I will be up in the pen this weekend," Ward said. "We've got three guys that are all doing the job right now so they don't need me to start this weekend so will just go from there."

UConnPlaybook.com Managing Editor Ken Davis contributed to this story.

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