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    Friday, September 29, 2023

    If Coe has his way, UConn will come up big in NCAA tourney

    UConn’s Garrett Coe delivers a pitch during the Huskies’ 2022 NCAA tournament super regional game at Stanford. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

    Storrs — At 6-foot-6, 256 pounds and sporting a lumberjack beard, UConn junior Garrett Coe is an intimidating presence on the mound.

    Coe often has to escape sticky situations without any trouble.

    It’s similar to what he does working at Ted’s Bar on weekend nights.

    Coe is not only a key member for the Huskies’ pitching staff, he’s also a bouncer at the campus hotspot for students.

    His size comes in handy in both places.

    “It’s definitely helpful being big,” said Coe, referring to his position as a bouncer, not a pitcher. “People don’t want to mess around. It’s just having a presence. I don’t really have to open my mouth half the time.”

    Don’t expect Coe, who grew up in the Litchfield Country town of Lakeside and attended the The Gunnery School in Washington, to be working the door checking IDs anytime soon.

    Coe will be with the Huskies in Gainesville, Fla., trying to do his part to fuel a deep NCAA tournament run. UConn will play Texas Tech in its regional opener on Friday at noon (ESPNU) at top-seeded Florida’s Condron Family Ballpark.

    During the baseball season, Coe’s focus is solely on school and baseball, and he rarely works at Ted’s.

    Before even applying for the bouncer’s job last summer, Coe talked to coach Jim Penders who gave his stamp of approval.

    “I told him he’s mature enough to handle it, go for it,” Penders said. “Look at the size of him. I don’t worry about him. Anybody that wants to take him on, good luck.”

    A gentle giant at heart, Coe reports that his job as a bouncer is much tamer than portrayed in the movies.

    He can get into worse trouble loading the bases with nobody out than dealing with unruly patrons.

    “It’s nothing like you ever see in Road House,” said Coe, referring to the movie about a bouncer played by the late Patrick Swayze. “We don’t have any bar fights or anything like that. Some of the kids just have a little too much fun and you’ve got to take care of them.”

    Coe discovered a benefit from interactions with his fellow students.

    When they learn that Coe plays for UConn’s nationally-ranked baseball team, they want to know more about him and the team.

    He happily obliges.

    “The one biggest takeaway that I’ve had from it is kids talking to me about games,” Coe said. “Once they realized that I was also a baseball player, kids wanted to talk to me about the baseball team and stuff like that.

    “It’s first-hand seeing an increase in support and seeing my guys getting recognition. I’m conditioned seeing hundreds of kids watching basketball games. Now I have kids coming in and they’re ready to go to a baseball game.”

    Coe and the Huskies are hoping to keep their fans entertained for at least a few more weeks. First, they’ll have to survive the Gainesville Regional, which also includes host Florida and Florida A&M.

    The Huskies are determined to complete their mission of reaching the College World Series after falling one win short last season. The pain still lingers from the season-ending loss to Stanford in 2022.

    “That’s a hurt and a burn in your stomach that you don’t want to feel again,” Coe said. “I think these guys are ready to take it to the next level and go further and to eventually win the whole thing.”

    Primarily a reliever his first two seasons in Storrs, Cole’s versatility has been a huge plus as a junior. A left-hander, he’s made 21 appearances, including six starts.

    In last weekend’s Big East tournament championship game against Xavier, Coe came out of the bullpen in the third inning and allowed six hits and one run in career-high 5.2 innings, striking out four and not issuing a walk. He left the game with a lead but the Huskies gave up five runs in the ninth in a 7-3 loss. He earned a spot on the all-tournament team.

    Coe is 6-2 with a 4.01 earned run average in 51.2 innings this season.

    “Garrett Coe has stepped up,” Penders said. “He’s been great. He and (pitching) coach (Josh MacDonald) really had a real heart to heart at Hawaii (in March). Since then, he’s just been really, really awesome. Looking forward to seeing what he does. He’s got a slow heart-beat. He’s great with kids. He’s got a big heart.”

    How far UConn advances in the tournament just may depend on its pitching staff, which has battled through some inconsistencies this season. The Huskies own a 4.86 earned run average.

    Coe has faith that they’ll deliver.

    “I’m very confident in our pitching staff,” Coe said. “We have a lot of guys who have everything it takes to get it done. It might not have seemed like our execution was there at points. But there’s not a guy out there that I don’t feel comfortable with. I think everybody who toes the rubber can and eventually will get the job done.”

    His family, including younger brother Chandler, will be rooting him on. A talented pitcher and recent Loomis Chaffee graduate. Chandler committed to play for Texas Tech, UConn’s first round opponent.

    “I was thinking, wow, imagine this is a year later and he was actually there,” Coe said.


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