West

UConn pitchers see summertime action

Blaine McCormick
P.J. Poulin of Marion is playing this summer with the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod Baseball League.

What could be better than a summer on Cape Cod or the Connecticut seashore?

For University of Connecticut pitchers PJ Poulin of Marion and Trevor Holmes of Ashland, it’s also playing the game they love 100 miles apart — Poulin with the Cape Cod Baseball League’s Bourne Braves and Holmes with the Mystic Schooners of the New England Collegiate Baseball League.

Poulin, a rising junior, and Holmes, a fifth-year senior who will graduate in August, have been solid contributors out of the bullpen, keeping their respective teams in the playoff hunt.

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Through Wednesday, Poulin, a lefty who starred at Tabor Academy, had appeared in 12 games for Bourne, lowering his earned run average to 1.96 while picking up wins July 20 over Cotuit and July 24 versus Falmouth to improve his record to 2-1.

University of Connecticut
Trevor Holmes
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Holmes, a standout at Governor’s Academy in Byfield, didn’t allow an earned run in his first six appearances with Mystic. The righthander was 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 13 games and had wins against New Bedford on July 24 and Danbury on July 18.

“It’s gorgeous here, especially the downtown,’’ said Holmes, “but I also travel back and forth to UConn just about every weekday to finish my undergraduate courses because I was just accepted to grad school at UConn.’’

The 6-foot, 183-pound Poulin, who pitched last summer for the NECBL’s New Bedford Bay Sox, said playing in Bourne has been “a dream come true. We have been a host family in the past for the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape League and now my host family is my own family since I’m staying at our house this summer. It’s about a 15 to 20 minute ride to our home field.’’

Bourne coach Harvey Shapiro and Mystic general manager and pitching coach Dennis Long are former UConn players and are kept well-informed by the UConn coaching staff about summertime prospects.

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“Trevor has been a great competitor since he first arrived in Storrs. He fears no opponent and attacks the strike zone no matter what,’’ said UConn head baseball coach Jim Penders, whose team posted a 33-25 record this year and narrowly missed an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. “He’s also a great teammate and has a toughness that we really value.’’

Penders said Poulin “rediscovered his stuff this past spring after a challenging freshman season. He is a very hard worker with a positive attitude and selfless mindset. It is great to see their success this summer.’’

Signed as a temporary player because “you can never have enough pitchers to start the season,’’ Shapiro said, the versatile Poulin has earned permanent status with his fine work in long relief, as a setup man and as a specialist against left-handed hitters.

“The barometer for his summer season is what will PJ take out of this experience against elite competition when he gets back to UConn?’’ added Shapiro. “If you do things the right way you should be better for it and PJ has through his outstanding work ethic.’’

Poulin, who had a 2-0 record and 3.28 ERA as a reliever and spot starter this past season with UConn, said he did not worry about the status of his contract this summer and focused on “trying to help our team win. It’s been a blast having a couple of UConn teammates here with me – Ronnie Rossomando and Zac Susi.’’

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Poulin has also stayed in touch with Holmes, whom he described as “a great guy and a great leader.’’ Holmes considers Poulin “a special talent,’’ who is focused 100 percent of the time but also keeps the Huskies’ bullpen loose.

A team and Independent School League MVP at Governor’s – where in addition to his pitching prowess he belted 21 career homers – the 6-foot-1, 228-pound Holmes ran into injury problems in college.

He was redshirted as a freshman, rebounded in 2015 when he appeared in 17 games with a 3.52 ERA, was limited to two games in 2016, and was called out of the pen 12 times this year. He has one season of eligibility remaining.

Holmes is also among familiar company as UConn teammates Dan Rajkowski and Chris Winkel also play for the defending league champion Schooners.

Shoulder surgery sidelined Holmes last summer, but he’s made up for lost time and feeling much healthier.

“I wanted to get in as many innings this summer with Mystic taking it day by day and soaking it all in,’’ he said. “The more frequently I throw the more it makes my arm bounce back quicker.’’

Long said Holmes has made the most of his opportunity.

“Trevor is fearless, he knows how to pitch and he has a great changeup. I have no hesitation to put him in against both left and right-handed batters. He’s getting an opportunity here to develop and he’s taken it and run with it.’’

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com.