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Daniello ends UConn baseball run as captain and champion

Former Brien McMahon High School baseball star Bryan Daniello, a two-time FCIAC Player of the Year, certainly finished his solid college career at the University of Connecticut with a flourish.

Daniello delivered some hot hitting and excellent fielding during the second half of the season to help lead the Huskies to the 2016 American Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Daniello had a .485 batting average with 16 hits in 33 at-bats in Connecticut’s eight postseason games to elevate his season’s batting average to .289 (71-for-246), which was the fourth highest on the team. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound senior shortstop was one of two Huskies to start in all 63 games.

The lefty swinger usually batted fifth in the lineup and he was excellent in the field as he did not commit an error during the last 31 games of the season for the 38-25 Huskies. He was selected to the All-AAC Second Team.

Daniello was not the only former two-time FCIAC Player of the year who contributed for UConn this past spring.

Former Trinity Catholic ace Randy Polonia was a vital freshman pitcher out of the bullpen for head coach Jim Penders.

Daniello was absolutely sizzling at the plate when Connecticut won four out of five games in the AAC Tournament. He collected 13 hits in 21 at-bats for a .619 batting average, culminating with a 3-for-4 performance during the title-clinching 7-2 victory over Houston on May 26.

Daniello went 1-for-4 when the Huskies defeated Georgia Tech, 7-6, in the opening game of the NCAA Gainesville Regional before they were eliminated via losses in two close games to host Florida (6-5) and Georgia Tech (7-5).

After Daniello went 1-for-4 on May 10, his season’s batting average dropped to .256 but that would be the end of a midseason slump. That culminated a cold stretch in which he batted just .160 (9-for-56) in 16 games from April 15 to May 10.

Then he went 2-for-4 in perhaps the most memorable game of his career on May 11 to begin his hot season-ending surge in which he would bat .379 (25-for-66) in Connecticut’s last 16 games. Coincidentally enough, Daniello began that surge during the beginning of an 11-game winning streak for Connecticut, which ended up winning 14 of its last 17 games.

That May 11 game at Northeastern was especially noteworthy for Daniello because UConn’s Huskies went into the eighth inning facing an 8-3 deficit and Daniello provided the main jolt to help them rally back for a 9-8 victory. Daniello belted a three-run home run in the eighth inning to cut the deficit to 8-6 and then he drew a walk and scored a run in the three-run ninth inning. The homer was his fourth of the season and the ninth and final home run of his career.

When Daniello went 0-for-4 on April 15 to begin that midseason slump, he also committed two errors in a 3-2 win over Houston. That second one was the last fielding miscue of his career as he went on that streak of 31 errorless games to finish the season with a .952 fielding percentage and a team-high 151 assists.

Daniello started in 216 of his 224 career games and his batting average improved each year. After batting .209 as a freshman, he batted .274 as a sophomore, last year he batted .278 and his hot finish this year got his career average up to .266 with 212 hits in 797 at-bats.

During his senior year he was second on the team with 13 stolen bases, his 15 doubles were tied for third on the team, he was fourth on the team in RBIs (38) and slugging percentage (.415), and he was fifth on the team with 35 runs scored.

Daniello, now 22, played four years of varsity baseball at Brien McMahon for head coach John Cross. During his junior and senior seasons – 2011 and ’12 – Daniello was named the FCIAC Player of the Year and to the Class LL All-State First Team and New Haven Register All-State Team. In 2012 he was the Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year and the Fairfield County Sport Commission’s Sportsman of the Year for the City of Norwalk.

Polonia was the FCIAC Player of the Year in 2014 and ’15. He was Class S All-State First Team three times from 2013-15 for head coach Tracy Nichols at Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford. Last year he had a 12-1 record with a 0.66 ERA on the mound and a .443 batting average at the plate after he batted .508 as a junior.

Polonia is listed on the Connecticut roster as a pitcher/infielder but the 6-foot-1, 190-pound righthander saw all of his action on the mound with 26 appearances in relief. He began the year as UConn’s closer, ended up second on the team with six saves, and he had a 4-3 record and a 5.76 earned run average with 38 strikeouts in 25 innings pitched.

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