"Chaos" makes an impression on Huskies baseball. Willy Yahn having terrific freshman campaign.
He certainly has had a hop in his step during his freshman year as a member of the UConn baseball team. Willy Yahn, a Housatonic graduate, is having a great year for the Huskies.
Storrs: He’s always been the player that you may not notice at first but always remember seeing at second glance.
Never the flashy guy, just the hard working, blue collar, loving that lunch pail kind of player and young man.
Former Housatonic Mountaineer and Torrington Titan star, Willy Yahn, is having himself some kind of year at the University of Connecticut, a team that sports a 27-15 overall record as the regular season enters its final three weeks.
Yahn, who was not in the starting lineup when the campaign started, has cemented himself at third base with a .350 batting average and the kind of tough play any of us who saw him play in high school grew very familiar with.
What drew the Huskies and manager Jim Pender to the Mountaineer legend and did he see any of this coming?
“Any coach that is telling you the truth, Pender said, “Isn’t going to say that they expect to get a guy coming out Housatonic Regional to hit as well as he’s hit but all of his coaches said the same thing about him. He’s a hard worker, he hits till his hands bleed and he’s a gamer.”
To see Yahn in action is to see the things that don’t show up in the stats at the end of the day.
“When we went to see him, he was never the biggest guy on the field but he was always the dirtiest,” Pender continued, “He never wore batting gloves so I equate that with some toughness. He’s worried about playing well, not how he looks. He’s a throwback, even despite the hair.”
What did Pender think he was getting?
“I knew we were getting a multi-sport athlete who played the game hard,” Pender said, “I thought that the game might not speed up on him even though he’s coming from a small area and a small conference. That didn’t bother me because he plays with such energy and passion. He’s got a good heart and he’s from a good family and usually those things add up to a winner.”
In addition to the outstanding batting average, Yahn has a home run and 21 runs batted in while working a .383 on base percentage in the mix along with a .470 slugging mark.
He has been in 28 games, starting 25 and has scored 19 runs.
On Saturday, during a 7-3 UConn win over East Carolina, Yahn may not have lit up the stat sheet but had an outstanding play at third and forced the Pirates into a fielding miscue that eventually led to a pair of runs.
It also played into a nickname that has been thrown around a bit this year; “Chaos”.
In the bottom of the eighth with the Huskies up 5-3 and looking for insurance runs, Bryan Daniello led off with a walk.
In a sacrifice situation, Yahn took the first pitch high for a ball but noticed the Pirates third basemen right on top of him as he squared to bunt.
On the next pitch, Yahn showed bunt but then pulled bat back to hit away, grounding a ball between third and short. With most of the defense in motion, the ball caught the shortstop out of position and although he fielded the hard grounder, his throw to second was wild, allowing Daniello to come all the way around to score and putting Mr. Chaos at second.
“He’s not afraid to do that,” Pender said, “We wanted him to pull the ball a little bit more, you know, we have a slash play on there. We told him that if that third basemen comes up in your grill again, slash, pull it past him. He didn’t quite pull it enough but there’s guys out of position there and he puts the ball on the ground and something can happen. That I trust a freshman to do that tells you a lot about how we feel him. We have a lot of confidence in him and his ability at the plate.”
Yahn would come around to score on a single by Eric Yavarone and the Huskies had scored twice on just one hit.
Good things can happen when you put the ball in play.
Yahn has also impressed his coaches with his play at the hot corner where skills from another sport have helped shape his actions on the diamond.
“At third base, he’s been like that soccer goalie that he was in high school,” Pender said, “He’s got a good first step and he plays the game the right way.”
Has he heard the chaos calls?
“It’s kind of been tossed around a little,” Yahn said, “I just try and put the ball in play, create chaos by putting pressure on the defense and see what might happen.”
As UConn enters the final stretch of a season that has them tied for third in the American Athletic Conference with a 6-6 league mark, the former Titan likes what he sees from his team.
“We have a great group of guys,” Yahn said, “The talent is there. I think right now it’s the chemistry. Everybody is pulling in the right direction.”
In the AAC, USF is on top with an 8-4 mark. The Huskies have a big three-game home series starting on Friday versus second place Memphis.
UConn has 14 game left, seven at home, seven on the road before the AAC Tournament.
It’s worth a trip to Storrs if you want to see a local young man living his dream on the Division I stage. Just look for the guy with the dirtiest uniform.