Jim Penders – Head Coach
University Connecticut Huskies Baseball Team
Jim Penders has worked with the University of Connecticut baseball program in 27 of the last 29 years, being associated with the Huskies as a student-athlete, an assistant coach and now head coach. He begins his 16th season as head coach in 2019. A four-time conference Coach of the Year, Penders has overseen one of the most successful stretches in the 122-year history of UConn baseball.
Overall in his tenure, Penders holds a 525-367-5 record. He has led the Huskies to five NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Super Regional appearance in 2011. UConn has also won a regular season or conference title three times with Penders in the dugout and hosted the 2010 Norwich Regional. Under his watch, 12 Huskies have earned All-America honors, most recently Mason Feole and P.J. Poulin in 2018.
In 15 seasons as head coach for the Huskies, Penders has had a total of 47 players either drafted or signed by professional baseball clubs. During the 2015 MLB season a program-record five former Huskies played in the big leagues: Nick Ahmed (’11) of the Diamondbacks, Matt Barnes (’11) of the Red Sox, Scott Oberg (’12) of the Rockies, Mike Olt (’11) of the Cubs and George Springer (’11) of the Astros. The feat occurred again in 2018 with Ahmed, Barnes, Oberg and Springer joined by former teammate John Andreoli (’11) who was called up by the Seattle Mariners on May 23, 2018.
Penders has led his squad to 30 or more wins in 12 of his 15 years at Connecticut. In 2018, Penders led UConn to its fourth at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament in program history. The Huskies earned the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Conway Regional and reached the Regional Final by defeating LIU Brooklyn and host, Coastal Carolina. The Huskies finished with 37 wins, eclipsing the 35-win mark for the fifth time in the last nine seasons.
Mason Feole earned an invite to pitch for the USA Collegiate National Team in 2018, becoming the third Husky in the past four seasons to receive the honor. Penders has had five players don the stars and stripes (Matt Barnes, Tim Cate, Anthony Kay and George Springer).
Penders led the Huskies to their first-ever American Athletic Conference crown in 2016, finishing with a 38-25 overall record en route to their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last seven seasons. Four Huskies were drafted in the 2016 MLB Draft, including Kay, who went 31st overall to the New York Mets.
Penders earned NEIBA New England Coach of the Year honors in 2015 as his squad went 35-25 and reached the semifinal round of the 2015 American Baseball Championship. Seven Huskies earned All-Conference accolades following the season, including American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year Carson Cross. Along with Siena, the NEIBA New England Player of the Year, Cross was named an ABCA/Rawlings Third-Team All-American following the season and also received All-America laurels from Louisville Slugger. Willy Yahn became UConn’s first Freshman All-American since 2009 following the season with a Louisville Slugger nod.
In 2014, UConn struggled with injuries and youth and finished the year with a 27-31 record. The Huskies qualified for the inaugural American Athletic Conference Championship, defeating
eventual champion Houston in pool play. Despite the underwhelming record, several Huskies received major individual accolades. Bobby Melley was named NEIBA New England Player of the Year and was one of three All-Conference first team members.
In 2013, the Huskies claimed their final BIG EAST Championship, defeating Notre Dame, 8-1, in Clearwater, Fla. UConn advanced to play in the NCAA tournament for the third time in the
past four years. The BIG EAST title was the third in UConn history joining the 1990 and ’94 teams. UConn defeated No. 1 seed Virginia Tech in its first game of the 2013 NCAA Regional hosted in Blacksburg, Va., before falling to Oklahoma and the Hokies in consecutive games. The Huskies finished the season with a 35-28 record.
In 2012, the Huskies’ season ended in the BIG EAST Championship Semifinals with back-toback losses to USF. UConn’s overall record was 31-27-1.
In 2011, Penders guided the Huskies to the program’s first regular-season BIG EAST championship title and first appearance in the NCAA Super Regionals. UConn finished the season with a 22-5 mark in conference play, and ended the year with a 45-20-1 overall record.
Following their program-best 22 wins in conference play in 2011, the Huskies earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the 17th time, including their second straight appearance. As the No. 2
seed in the Clemson Regional, UConn went 4-1 while eliminating all three opponents from NCAA Tournament play, including No. 1 seed Clemson.
During 2011, Penders coached 11 student-athletes to BIG EAST post season honors, including Pitcher of the Year Matt Barnes and Player of the Year George Springer. Three Huskies also
earned All-America status under Penders that season, as Barnes and Springer were named first team All-Americans and Kevin Vance was named a second team All-American.
In the 2011 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, a program-best 10 Huskies were selected. George Springer (11th overall), and Matt Barnes (19th overall) were first-round selections of the
Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox respectively. Joining the two first-rounders were Nick Ahmed (2nd round pick of the Braves), John Andreoli (17th round pick of the Cubs), Greg
Nappo (18th round pick of the Marlins), Kevin Vance (19th round pick of the White Sox), Mike Nemeth (21st round pick of the Brewers), Dave Fischer (30th round pick of the Giants), Doug Elliot (35th round pick of the Brewers), and Elliot Glynn (39th round pick of the Brewers).
The 2010 season was one of the most successful seasons in program history, as Penders guided the Huskies to a program-best 48 wins. After being nationally ranked for the first time since
1979, UConn earned an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time since 1994 and hosted the Norwich Regional at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, Conn. Along with the team success, including a UConn-best 22-game win streak, Penders earned multiple coaching accolades as he was named BIG EAST, ECAC, and NEIBA Coach of the Year. He was also named the ABCA/Diamond Northeast Coach of the Year.
In 2009, Penders led the Huskies to a 36-24 overall record and an appearance in the BIG EAST Championship final against Louisville. Under Penders’ guidance, George Springer became UConn’s first-ever BIG EAST Rookie of the Year following the 2009 season.
During 2007, Penders and the Huskies earned a spot in the BIG EAST Championship game after battling their way through the BIG EAST Tournament by upsetting three higher-seeded teams. UConn’s appearance in the title game as the eighth-seed marked the lowest seed in BIG EAST Tournament history to reach the final game. In addition, Penders guided the Huskies to their third straight season with 34 or more wins, as his 2006 and 2007 squads ended the year with 39 and 34 victories respectively.
After the 2006 season, a year in which the Huskies went 39-18-1, Penders led his program to a second place finish in the BIG EAST and earned BIG EAST Coach of the Year, and NEIBA
Coach of the Year honors, while his team was named the NEIBA Team of the Year. In July of 2003, Penders became just the fifth head coach in the program’s history since 1924 joining Sumner Dole (1924-35), J.O. Christian (1936-61), Larry Panciera (1962-79) and Andy Baylock (1980-2003).
Penders was an assistant coach for the Huskies for seven years from 1997-2003 as UConn posted winning seasons in each of those campaigns. As an assistant coach, Penders coordinated the Huskies recruiting of student-athletes, served as a hitting coach and worked with the catchers and outfielders.
A standout on the baseball field for Connecticut during his undergraduate career, Penders was a four-year letterwinner as a Husky. He was co-captain of the 1994 UConn squad that won the BIG EAST Conference tournament, and the Huskies advanced to the NCAA Championship in both his junior and senior years. He hit .354 with seven home runs and 46 runs batted in as a senior in 1994. He earned First Team All-Northeast, All-New England and All-BIG EAST honors in his senior year as a catcher.
During his UConn career, the Huskies played in the Championship game of the BIG EAST Tournament three times. Penders helped the Huskies to 99 wins over his four seasons, including a 30-18 record in 1994. He also excelled in the classroom as a three-time BIG EAST Academic All-Star. Penders was a four-year member of the UConn Captains’ Council and served as that group’s president during his senior year.
Penders graduated from UConn in 1994 with a degree in political science and added a master’s degree from UConn in 1998 from the School of Education.
Penders worked in Washington, D.C., from 1994-96 as a political fundraiser for U.S. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa. Penders returned to UConn for the 1997 season as a graduate assistant baseball coach and became a fulltime assistant coach for the 1999 season. He also founded and directs the Connecticut Baseball School. The popular camp holds sessions during the summer and winter vacation periods, along with a one-day fall session in October every year.