UConn Baseball made a strong statement this weekend, taking two of three from previously ranked Tulane (18-10, 1-2 in the AAC) in New Orleans to improve their record to 17-9 (2-1 AAC).
Friday night means Carson Cross for UConn baseball, which has become synonymous with success.
Cross threw seven shut out innings, striking out seven and just allowing two walks and four hits on his way to leading the Huskies to a 6-0 victory against a Green Wave lineup that had just scored seven runs against the top team in the nation, LSU.
Making it all the more impressive is that head coach Jim Penders said that Cross seemed to have tired legs during his start.
"He was battling," Penders said. "They were swinging really early in the counts, and it was good because I didn't know how much longer he could have gone."
The performance improved Cross' record to 6-1 on the year, and earned him a well deserved AAC Pitcher of the Week award for the third time this season.
Backing Cross was a UConn offense that scored five runs against Tulane ace Corey Merrill, who is now 1-2 with a 1.93 ERA in seven starts.
Senior outfielder Jon Testani led the UConn offense, going 2-4 with three RBI including a two-run homer in the sixth inning that made it 5-0 and effectively put the game out of reach.
Nico Darras and Trevor Holmes closed out the game by each pitching a scoreless inning.
Penders described the team as "overemotional" as the team lost 5-1 to even the series.
Anthony Kay failed to go six innings for the first time this season, dropping to 3-3 on the year as he went five innings and gave up five runs (one earned) on seven hits and two walks. He struck out seven.
There were some bright spots for the Huskies on offense though, as Vinny Siena extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a 3-4 day, and Blake Davey hit his fourth home run of the year.
Game three was a thriller.
With the Huskies down 3-2 entering the ninth after an eighth inning Blake Davey home run was incorrectly ruled a double, fellow Cypress College transfer Joe Deroche-Duffin left no doubt in the umpires mind, clearing the fence with a game tying long-ball to right field.
The Huskies built a lead after Siena and Jack Sundberg each drew a walk with one out. Bobby Melley reached on an error, which drove in Sundberg, and a sacrifice fly by Max McDowell gave UConn a two-run cushion.
Penders said that the win was karmic in a way.
"We had Blake's home run that wasn't called a home run, and then Melley squeaks one up the middle that looks like a double play ball and it gets through the infielder," Penders said. "That was kind of the baseball gods helping to even things out...we deserved that, we deserved a little luck right there."
The Huskies were able to have a chance at the win thanks to a fantastic relief appearance by sophomore Pat Ruotolo. The right-hander threw three and a third hitless innings, walking three and striking out six. He would get the win.
Penders believed that the team harnessed the right amount of energy on Sunday.
"Our dugout was super emotional and we said this morning ‘hey you can't let the emotions beat us.' Yesterday we had our emotions bubble over and we helped to beat ourselves," Penders said. "Today, we were able to put a lid on it."
The Huskies moved their home opener on Tuesday March 31 to New England Baseball Complex in Northborough, Mass, where they will take on the hated Boston College (11-13, 4-7 ACC).
The Huskies true home opener will be this Thursday at 3:00 p.m. as they continue conference play against the USF Bulls. Friday's game is also at 3:00 p.m., and Saturday's finale is at 1:00 p.m.
Thursday's forecast looks to be a beautiful early spring day and this team is incredibly fun to watch. Hope to see you all at J.O. Christian Field.