April 18, 2011 is a day that UConn pitcher Anthony Marzi will probably remember for the rest of his life. It was the day he made his first collegiate appearance, throwing three innings in relief in an 18-3 win over UMass. It was also the day he threw his first collegiate strikeout.
Three years, 47 appearances and 199 strikeouts later, Marzi will enter the second half of his final season in Storrs having pitched his way into the ranks of the Huskies’ baseball elite.
The senior from Berlin reached a historic career milestone yesterday in UConn’s 4-1 win over Temple, becoming the seventh player in program history to reach the 200 career strikeout plateau, surpassing three-time Major League Baseball All-Star Charles Nagy to take sole ownership of seventh place on the Huskies’ all-time strikeout list.
“Coach (Joshua MacDonald) was telling me I passed Nagy down in Cincinnati (last weekend) with 197 (strikeouts), so I knew I was close,” Marzi said.
Ever the humble leader, Marzi was quick to downplay the milestone after the game, which he finished having thrown six innings – five of them scoreless – along with four walks and seven punchouts, earning his fourth win of the season.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” Marzi said of the milestone. “I’m thankful for the win, but the 200 strikeouts doesn’t mean much. I’d rather have more wins than strikeouts, to be honest.”
Marzi, an in-state product who as a high schooler didn’t receive offers from any college baseball powerhouses, said he has had to work for everything he’s received in his college career.
“I didn’t come in highly touted,” he said. “My work ethic is what got me here, and that’s what I’ll continue to do moving on.”
Marzi said that while the strikeout total itself doesn’t mean much to him, the prestigious group of former UConn pitchers he has joined – a list that includes Nagy, 2011 first-round pick Matt Barnes and former New York Yankees draft pick Tim Norton, among others – is what he’s most proud of.
“It’s pretty humbling, to be honest,” Marzi said. “I know Nagy had like 197 in two years, which is pretty remarkable. But it’s pretty cool, and I’m honored."
Marzi now leads the team with 53 strikeouts, 17 more than his nearest competitor. He also leads UConn pitchers in innings pitched, wins and starts.
UConn head coach Jim Penders said Marzi was thrust into the lineup somewhat unexpectedly after initially redshirting in his freshman year. Suspensions had thinned out the Huskies’ bullpen, resulting in a vacuum of innings and not enough pitchers to throw them.
“It was right about this time of year, it was mid-April – I think against UMass,” Penders said of Marzi’s first start. “And I went to him and I said, ‘Anthony it’s not fair of me to ask you this, but are you okay with taking your redshirt off? It may lead to a role for you, we’re going to be rooting for it to lead to some kind of role. But you may throw one-third of an inning and it’ll cost you a year of eligibility.’ And he said to me at that time, he said ‘Coach, if you think it’s the best thing for our team, then it’s definitely what I want to do.’”
Penders said Marzi’s leadership has been the hallmark of his UConn tenure ever since that fateful outing against UMass three years ago, and that he has watched him grow on and off the field.
“He’s always been a team-first guy,” Penders said. “I’m sure he’s not real into the strikeouts, to the record. He’s trying to win as many games as he can while he’s here, and it’s been fun watching him for the last four years.”
Penders said the 6-foot-1-inch left hander has been one of the Huskies’ most exemplary players in terms of work ethic from the day he first set foot on campus.
“When I think of Anthony Marzi, I think of hard work and dedication, a team-first attitude and toughness,” Penders said. “He’s a Berlin, Conn. kid, and there’s a lot of tough kids that play baseball in Berlin, and he’s one of them.”
While Marzi had already cemented his place in UConn baseball lore after throwing a complete game victory against Notre Dame in the 2013 Big East tournament final, Penders said what makes him one of the finest pitchers he’s ever coached is not just what he’s done on the mound, but also the person he has become off it.
“When I kick the bucket, he’ll be one of the guys holding the handle on the casket, hopefully,” Penders said. “He’s pretty special to me.”