UConn Baseball Swept in Heartbreaking Fashion

Rob Foldy-US PRESSWIRE

The Florida Gators walk-off in extra innings in all three games of the series.

The UConn baseball team arrived in Gainesville late Thursday night looking to bounce back from a disappointing series loss at Lipscomb and beat an SEC team for the first time in program history. They came painfully close in each and every game.

Game one of the series saw Jordan Tabakman take the hill making his usual Friday night start and he threw a gem pitching six and two third innings of shutout ball allowing five hits, three walks, and had three strikeouts. Unfortunately he received no support from the Husky offense. The bats managed just 5 hits, 2 of which came from three hitter Vinny Siena. The best scoring opportunity for UConn came in the 10th inning. With the game still knotted at 0, catcher Max McDonald laced a 1-out double to left field. After a Jon Testani walk, shortstop Aaron Hill hit into a fielder’s choice which forced out Testani at second base, but moved McDowell to third. With centerfielder and leadoff hitter Jack Sundberg at the plate with a 0-1 count, and freshman lefthander Kirby Snead on the mound for Florida, Hill broke for second and McDowell broke for home simultaneously. Snead stepped off the mound and briefly looked at Hill before firing home. The throw was a bit high and wide, but catcher Taylor Gushue was able to make a great play catching the ball and going back across home plate to get the tag down to catch McDowell stealing home for the third out of the inning.

The Gators used the momentum gained from the top half of the 10th inning and carried it into a win. Third basemen and eight hitter Josh Tobias started things off with a single and was bunted over by the nine hitter Buddy Reed. After a Richie Martin lineout to Vinny Siena, Casey Turgeon the Gators second basemen, whose brother Eric played for UConn from 2006-2008, lined a single in front of the right fielder Testani whose throw was just late.

Game two featured a similar storyline, as the bats were silent once again. UConn was finally able to get a run across home plate in the fifth inning when Siena lined a single down the left field line past the diving third basemen Tobias to score freshman Ryan Sullivan. That would be the only run the Huskies would score though as seven Florida pitchers were able to combine for 16 strikeouts and allowed just seven hits. The lack of run support is something that senior lefthander Anthony Marzi has had to face all season and Saturday was no different. Marzi had another great start going seven and a third innings giving up just one run on four hits and three walks and had four strikeouts. The Gators tied the score at one in the fifth on back-to-back doubles by Buddy Reed and Richie Martin. The game would stay tied until the bottom of the 10th inning when Florida loaded the bases against UConn reliever Max Slade with no outs. The Huskies turned to David Mahoney who was faced with the tall task of getting out of the near impossible situation and plunked Gator hitter Zack Powers with the first pitch of the at-bat to fall in game two.

The bats finally came alive in game three. UConn jumped out to an early lead on a Siena RBI groundout to score leadoff man Jack Sundberg who reached on a walk and moved to third on a successful hit and run by two hitter Eric Yavarone. Cleanup hitter Blake Davey followed Siena with an RBI single up the middle and it looked like the Husky offense was off and running before McDowell hit into an inning ending double play. The Gators were able to bounce right back in the bottom of the first with two runs of their own. The game continued to be back and forth with the Gators scoring in the bottom of the third on a Gushue sacrifice fly, UConn tying the game the next half inning with a Ryan Sullivan sacrifice fly, and Florida re-taking the lead the next half inning on an RBI double by Josh Tobias.

UConn was able to show their resiliency, fighting back to take the lead back in the sixth. Davey led off with a double and was sent to third on a productive groundout by first basemen Bobby Melley. Then McDowell hit a hot shot into left field for a game tying RBI single. Bryan Daniello followed with an RBI double, depositing a 3-1 pitch down the left field line, to put the Huskies back on top.

Going into this game, the Gators had not won a game all season when trailing after six innings and it looked like the UConn bullpen was going to be able to hold down the lead. Freshman Anthony Kay came on in the 6th inning and kept Florida scoreless through the first out of the ninth. Then the Gators turned on their late inning magic. Taylor Gushue stepped to the plate and unloaded on a 0-1 fastball over the plate, crushing a home run well over the left field stands to tie the game and shattering a car windshield in the process. Kay was able to keep his focus and get out of the inning, but the UConn offense could not make anything happen in the top of the 10th after Siena singled to extend his hitting streak to 17 games, and his on base streak to 23 games. In the bottom of the tenth, Tobias led off with a triple and a couple batters later Casey Turgeon once again played hero, walking off for the second time in three nights, this time with a safety squeeze down the first base line, to give the Gators the win. The Gators improved to 10-6 and the Huskies dropped to 4-8. It was UConn’s sixth extra inning game of the season.

Although it was a series of tough results, there certainly were some positives. The pitching was pretty good all week and the young Huskies battled all weekend against a young Florida team that has the number one ranked freshman-recruiting class in the nation this year. Sophomores Max McDowell and Bobby Melley look like they are starting to regain their form from their successful freshman campaigns, and Vinny Siena and Blake Davey are looking like they are going to be the foundation for a solid heart of the order as the three and four hitters respectively.

The Huskies will have to rebound quickly as they are scheduled to play Sacred Heart (3-4) Tuesday in Bridgeport. It is scheduled for a 3:30pm start and the forecast is calling for a 48-degree day. It may seem curious that the game is scheduled in Connecticut in mid-march, but when your athletic director is Bobby Valentine, things like that happen.

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