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UConn Baseball Drops Two Out of Three at Liberty University

It was a closely-contested series, but the Huskies could only get one win out of their weekend trip to Virginia.

Game 1

by Shawn McGrath

UConn Baseball opened its weekend series with the Liberty University Flames on Friday with an 8-5 loss.

It was a game of missed opportunities for the Huskies, leaving nine runners on base. They failed to score a run with the bases loaded and two out in the fourth, and only pushed one across with the bases loaded in the first. Anthony Kay (1-1) took the loss in five innings pitched, while Liberty reliever Carson Herdon got the win, pitching 4.2 innings in relief of starter Parker Bean.

UConn started off strong, pushing Willy Yahn across when Tyler Gensda reached on an error by Flames third baseman Andrew Kowalo. The bases were then loaded with Huskies, but Bryan Daniello struck out and Bobby Melley was tagged out trying to advance to the plate.

Liberty struck back with four runs on a two-out rally in the third. After Kay struck out two Flames, DJ Artis singled and Eric Grabowski doubled, bringing Artis all the way around from first. Will Shepherd, the next batter, singled, plating Grabowski. Another single put runners on the corners. Kowalo then doubled in the left-center gap, emptying the bases. Kay got the next batter to ground out to stop the bleeding and keep the score at 4-1.

UConn threatened in the fourth, loading the bases after three walks and knocking Bean out of the game, but Troy Stefanski struck out swinging, leaving them loaded. After a clean fourth from Kay, The Flames still held a 4-1 lead after four.

Liberty added three more runs in the fifth. Artis led off with a walk, Grabowski singled, advancing on an error by Joe DeRoche-Duffin. Runners were on second and third for Shepherd, who singled, bringing home both Artis and Grabowski. After a Sundberg throwing error, Shepherd was left standing on second. He advanced to third on a Yacyk fly out to right, and Britt doubled him home after a Kowalo strikeout.

Liberty left Shepherd on second when Nick Walker flew out to right field. This ended Kay's day. He threw five innings, getting five strikeouts and allowing seven runs on eight hits.

UConn came back with two runs of their own, bringing the game to 7-3. Jack Sundberg led off with a walk, then stole second. Bobby Melley came to the plate and knocked a two-run shot over the right field fence on a 1-2 count.

The Flames added an insurance run in the seventh. Kowalo drew a one-out walk, and came around to score after Britt reached on an error by Susi. This made the lead 8-3.

Sundberg started a comeback attempt in the ninth, but it fell short, only getting two of the five runs needed to tie. He forced a one-out walk, then Yahn singled and Sundberg aggressively went from first to third on the play. Melley had runners on the corners, and he doubled home both Sundberg and Yahn. There was one out, and the Huskies had some momentum, but Tyler Simpson shut them down, striking out Joe DeRoche-Duffin and Tyler Gnesda to end the game.

Game 2

By Shawn McGrath

UConn earned an extra-innings victory Saturday in Game 2 against the Liberty Flames, winning 7-5 in 11 innings.

It was all about missed opportunities and control issues for UConn in the early going. But in the later innings, the Huskies started to convert their opportunities, and the pitchers started to walk less, and they got the win. Nico Darras earned the victory and Randy Polonia got the save for the Huskies.

Liberty got on the board first with a two-run first inning.

DJ Artis led off with a strikeout, but then UConn pitcher Will Montgomerie got into trouble. Nick Walker walked, Will Shepherd singled through the right side, and Dalton Britt forced another walk. Walker scored on a wild pitch, and everyone else moved over 90 feet. Montgomerie got another strikeout, and then Sammy Taormina walked, reloading the bases. Andrew Kowalo drew a hit-by-pitch, pushing Shepherd across the plate. After one inning, it was 2-0 Liberty.

In the bottom of the second, Montgomerie's control issues continued. After a leadoff groundout, DJ Artis singled and came around to score on a Walker double. After hitting Shepherd with a pitch, Montgomerie's day was done, only going 1.1 innings and allowing three runs. Jack Riley came in to pitch and got two outs on two batters faced.

The Huskies started to come alive in the top half of the fourth, with three consecutive one-out walks by Joe DeRoche-Duffin, Tyler Gnesda and Bryan Daniello, loading the bases with one out for John Toppa. He struck out swinging, and then the next batter, Alex LeFerve, went down 0-2 in the count. He worked it back to 2-2, but couldn't push anyone across the plate, grounding out to third to end the frame, leaving the score at 5-0 after three and a half innings.

UConn loaded the bases again in the top of the sixth on new reliever Zack Helzel. De-Roche Duffin led off with a double to center field, and Gnesda followed it up with his second walk of the afternoon. Toppa was hit by a pitch after a Daniello strikeout, and Helzel's day was done after getting only one out.

Right-hander Caleb Evans came in to pitch, and after an early wild pitch, which brought in the singular run the Huskies scored this half, shut down the threat with strikeouts of LeFerve and Sundberg, with a walk of Aaron Hill in between them. This closed the Flames' lead to 5-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth.

The Huskies came out and made it a close game in the seventh. Bobby Melley drew a one-out walk, and so did DeRoche-Duffin. Gnesda flew out to left, and Bobby Melley moved over to third on the play. With runners on the corners, and a full count, with two outs, Daniello tripled in the left-center gap, clearing the bases cutting the lead to two at 5-3.

The next batter, John Toppa, singled to center, plating Daniello to get the Huskies within one run. Alex LeFerve ended the inning with a fly out to right field.

Devin Over pitched a scoreless eighth for UConn, and so did Liberty pitcher Chris Gamble. In the ninth, Joe DeRoche-Duffin hit a solo home run off of Victor Cole to tie the game and send it to extras.

Both sides had a clean 10th. UConn broke through in the 11th against Cole.

Sundberg got it started with a lead-off single. Yahn moved him over with a sacrifice bunt, and then Melley and DeRoche-Duffin both walked on four pitches. Tyler Gnesda struck out looking for the second out, bringing Bryan Daniello to the plate. He came through with the game-winning hit, a two-run single up the middle. Randy Polonia pitched the next half inning and got his second save of the season.

Game 3

By Ryan Melillo

The Huskies had their first opportunity of the 2016 season to win a weekend series Sunday afternoon but came up just short, falling to the Liberty Flames by a final score of 5-4 in Lynchburg, VA.

Highly-touted freshman pitcher Ronnie Rossomando took the nod for his first collegiate start, delivering 4.1 innings of work and giving up three runs (two of which were earned) on five hits and a strikeout. The Huskies failed to provide enough run support, however, and Rossomando (0-1) took the loss.

The UConn offense continued its usual trend of scoring the game's first runs, as senior captain Jack Sundberg belted a solo home run into the right-field bleachers from the leadoff spot. This came on only the fourth pitch of the game to gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead.

The Flames were able to even things up in the bottom half of the second, as SS Bryan Daniello committed a two-out error, overthrowing the first baseman and allowing a run to cross the plate.

UConn managed to tack on another run in the top half of the third. Sophomore 3B Willy Yahn ripped a single to left to score C Alex Lefevre to make the Connecticut lead 2-1.  The hit gave Yahn his 6th RBI of the season.

Liberty continued to answer the Huskies, and a string of three hits by the home team gave the Flames a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the 5th.  This marked the end of the day for Rossomando, who would be replaced by RHP John Russell, who minimized damage and kept the score at 3-2 moving forward.

After extending their lead to 5-2 into the top of the 8th, the Huskies cut into the lead on OF Joe DeRoche-Duffin's two-run double. Their comeback bid was ousted in the top of the 9th, where the Huskies left two runners stranded to give the Liberty Flames the 5-4 win.

With the loss, the Huskies move to 5-4 on the season.  The next game up for UConn is a week game, where we will be playing host to Yale in the first game at J.O Christian field in Storrs.  First pitch is slated for 2 PM.