Baseball is a game of inches. Some days, it can be a heartbreaking one. A controversial out call on what would have been the game-winning run by Vinny Siena sent the game to extra innings, where East Carolina scored a run in the tenth to clinch their weekend series victory.
UConn (25-15, 6-6 AAC) fell to a fourth place in the conference (two games behind of first-place USF) with the Pirates (24-16. 6-6 AAC).
The series started off on the wrong foot for the Huskies with starting pitcher Carson Cross (7-2) giving up five consecutive two-out hits, coupled with an error, as part of a four run first inning that saw the ace throw 35 pitches.
Cross was able to compose himself and battle through eight innings allowing six runs (five earned), 10 hits, no walks, and striking out six. He became more efficient as the game went on and the Pirates only scored one run in the fifth and sixth innings due to some timely hitting.
The Huskies had their opportunities, and hit the ball hard against ECU starter Evan Kruczynski (5-2), but came up unlucky a number of times.
In the third inning, with Jack Sundberg on second and the Huskies trailing by three, Siena roped a two-out single to left but Sundberg got gunned down at the plate by a perfect throw from Pirate left fielder Eric Tyler.
Siena had another opportunity with runners on first and second with one out in the fifth. Head Coach Jim Penders called a hit and run on with Willy Yahn at first, and Siena hit the ball on the screws right at Pirates second basemen Charlie Yorgen, who quickly threw out Yahn for a double play.
At the start of the seventh, ECU put in their top reliever Nick Durazo who fired the last three innings, retiring nine of the 10 batters he faced, to pick up his second save of the year.
On Saturday the ball bounced more favorably for the Huskies. Bobby Melley led the way, going 2-3 with two RBI.
With two on and two out in the seventh, Melley hit a double to left center field, scoring both runners, and giving the Huskies a 5-2 lead.
Vinny Siena did his part as well with a 1-3 day at the plate, a walk, two RBI, and two runs scored.
Anthony Kay (6-3) took the hill for the Huskies, throwing seven and a third quality innings. the sophomore gave up three runs on nine hits and one walk, striking out two. It marked the eighth time in 10 starts this year that Kay threw at least seven innings.
Penders was happy that the team was finally able to put together complete game at home.
"It was important that it happened here, you know, we hadn't played great here on our field," said Penders. "That was the first really good game all around I thought that we played."
Ruotolo came on for Kay with one on and one out and allowed the inherited runner to score before retiring the side. The ninth inning was interesting as well, as a single, walk, and a wild pitch had runners on second and third with one out before the Pirates three hitter, Travis Watkins popped out to Siena to end the ballgame and give Ruotolo his fifth save of the year.
Starting pitcher Jordan Tabakman delivered a gritty performance, going six and a third innings, giving up three runs on six hits and four walks while striking out four. He kept the Huskies in the game along with Nico Darras, who gave up one run in three innings out of the bullpen.
The offense came along just in time in the ninth inning. Down 3-1, Siena hit a one-out RBI single that extended his on-base streak to 31 games, and Melley hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Then came McDowell's RBI single that ended in Siena being thrown out to end the inning. Penders stormed out of the dugout to argue with home plate umpire Timothy Carey, but it was to no avail. ECU scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly in the tenth. UConn went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning and it was over.
The Huskies stay in Storrs for the remainder of the month and will host UMass-Amherst (11-14) on Tuesday at 3:00 pm, and UMass-Lowell (9-19) in two very winnable games before hosting Memphis (25-12, 7-5 AAC) in a pivotal weekend series.