They had their chances. UConn loaded the bases in both the second and third innings against Tulane starter Patrick Duester but only came away with one run. Conversely, the Green Wave used timely hitting to come away with a 3-1 victory in the first round of the double-elimination American Athletic Conference Tournament.
Head Coach Jim Penders made a surprising decision sending midweek starter Andrew Zapata to the mound instead of ace Carson Cross. Penders explained after the game that this move was made so that Cross would either be pitching the Thursday night winners bracket game or the elimination game.
Zapata gave up a solo home run to Lex Kaplan in the first inning but ended up only giving up two runs in four innings. The sophomore had only thrown 53 pitches but had left some up in the zone, so Penders turned to redshirt freshman Sam Nepiarski to start the fifth inning.
Nepiarski was fantastic. The lanky right-hander kept the Huskies in the game, giving up one run on four hits while registering three strikeouts. The one run came on another Kaplan solo home run that gave the Green Wave much needed insurance.
The Huskies just couldn't get a big hit when they needed it. The team's one run came in the second inning when Bryan Daniello, battling a bad back, hit a line drive into right center field with the bases loaded that went off the glove of right fielder Kaplan. The inning ended with Jon Testani hitting a fielder's choice to third that forced out Max McDowell at the plate followed by a Jack Sundberg line out to the third baseman Tyler Wilson.
The next inning UConn again loaded the bases with one out, but Joe Deroche-Duffin hit an infield fly, and Willy Yahn struck out to end the inning.
The 6-seed Huskies drop to the losers bracket and will play the seventh seed UCF Knights, who lost to ECU on a walk-off. The Huskies will be the home team and send Cross, the AAC Pitcher of the Year, to the mound in this elimination game.
Earlier this season, the Huskies took two out of three on the road against a then-ranked UCF squad. Despite being ranked early on, the Knights struggled over the course of the season, finishing seventh in the American.