"Survive and advance baby!"
Those were the parting words from pitching coach Josh MacDonald in his post game interview with WHUS Radio. The sixth-seeded Huskies showed resiliency on a hot day in Clearwater, Florida and were able to pick up their first extra-inning victory of the year in an elimination game against the seventh-seeded University of Central Florida.
After a Jon Testani fly out to center field to start the 11th, Aaron Hill and Jack Sandberg roped singles to left field bringing up First Team All-Conference honoree Vinny Siena, who was already 2-3 on the day with two walks and an RBI. Siena muscled a bloop single into centerfield. Hill read it off the bat well, turning on the jets to score from second with a feet-first slide that narrowly beat the throw of the centerfielder Derrick Salberg.
Hill let out a scream as the team mobbed Siena in shallow centerfield. This moment did not seem likely in the second inning. Starting pitcher Carson Cross, fresh of being named the AAC Pitcher of the Year struggled through a 34 pitch second inning that saw the Knights score two runs and load the bases with one out before a fielders choice and a ground out got the Huskies out of the jam. Joe Deroche-Duffin then hit his team-leading 10th home run, a solo shot, to cut the deficit to 1.
From that point on, Cross shut down UCF and took a 3-2 lead into the 8th inning. However, the first batter he faced, lead-off man Dylan Moore, took an inside fastball and belted it over the bullpen in left field to tie the game. "That kid’s a first team all-conference player for a reason and you know he gave us a scare there but the next two guys (Ruotolo and Kay) were ready to do their jobs," said MacDonald."
That was the last pitch for Cross as he gave way to Pat Ruotolo, who went two and one-third shutout innings while striking out three, before giving the ball to No. 2 starter Anthony Kay. Kay pitched one and two-thirds innings of perfect ball while striking out three and recorded his eighth win of the year.
Ruotolo and Kay most likely are not available until at least Saturday. Cross, who threw 94 pitches, is now suspended for four games after being ejected for arguing with the umpire, which puts him out of the rest of the tournament. Blake Davey, who was also ejected, is suspended from today's game, which is obviously a big blow for the Huskies. Senior Eric Yavarone will most likely start in his place.
When asked if Jordan Tabakman would be on the hill tomorrow MacDonald said, "Yeah, why not?"
The Huskies take on Tulane with a chance to avenge a close loss to open the tournament. You can watch live here! GO HUSKIES!!