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UConn Baseball Falls in Weekend Series with Cincinnati

The Huskies lost their first two games by a combined two runs but grabbed a win in the third game to leave Cincinnati on a high note.

Ian Bethune
Game 1

By Shawn McGrath

The UConn Huskies fell to the Cincinnati Bearcats in the opening game of their road series Friday in a 13-inning marathon, 3-2. The Huskies came back to force extras after entering the ninth down 2-0. Cincinnati was able to overcome three hits from Joe DeRoche-Duffin, who extended his hitting streak to nine games, and a strong starting performance from lefty Anthony Kay.

Kay pitched well for the Huskies, scattering one run and four hits over six innings. He added six strikeouts against one walk. He allowed runners to reach third in both the second and the fourth, but was able to work out of both jams.

The Bearcats took a 1-0 lead on a Treg Haberkorn solo home run in the fifth, and that was all that Cincinnati was able to muster, until the eighth.

Kyle Mottice reached on a single up the middle, and scored after a sacrifice bunt, and two wild pitches, both of which were charged to Randy Polonia.

Going into the top of the ninth inning, UConn hadn't managed much offensively either. They loaded the bases in the second inning, but only had six runners reach base from the third until the eighth, with only two reaching scoring position.

Pinch hitter Connor Buckley and Jack Sundberg each took walks, and Willy Yahn bunted for a single to load the bases. Bobby Melley grounded out, but Buckley was able to cross the plate. Joe DeRoche-Duffin then come through to tie the game with a sacrifice fly, and off to extras it went, with the game tied at 2-2.

Both teams had chances in the extra frames, with UConn getting two men on in the 10th, and a man on third in the 12th. Cincinnati loaded the bases with no one out in the 12th, but Husky hurler Patrick Ruotolo was able to get out of it. He pitched a strong three innings, allowing five hits but zero runs.

Sam Nepiarsky came on for the bottom of the 13th, and the bases were loaded of Bearcats for Vince Augustine. Alex LeFevre committed an error on a throw home, and Treg Haberkorn slid in safely for the game winning run.

Game 2

by Ryan Melillo

Following a tough 13-inning setback to Cincinnati Friday night, UConn looked to red-hot freshman pitcher Tim Cate to get the Huskies back into the win column. Despite a season-best performance from the lefty, the Connecticut bats weren't able to produce enough run support on a chilly afternoon in Ohio as the Huskies lost, 3-2.

UConn struck first in the top of the fourth. A double by junior OF Keith Krueger was followed by a Willy Yahn single to get things going. A sacrifice fly by senior OF Joe DeRoche-Duffin with runners on the corners was able to score Krueger to make it 1-0 Huskies. A Daniello single later scored Yahn to extend the Connecticut advantage to 2-0.

The Bearcats were able to chip away at the early UConn lead in the bottom half of the fourth. A wild pitch gave Cincinnati an unearned run to make it 2-1 Huskies. The score remained 2-1 until the home half of the seventh. Cincinnati's Kyle Mottice grounded out with the bases loaded which allowed the runner to sneak home from third to make it a 2-2 ballgame.

The Huskies were able to get two men on in the top of the eighth but were not able to drive them in. Subsequently, Cincinnati was able to execute a suicide squeeze on a bunt by Cincinnati's Woody Wallace to plate a runner from third and give the Bearcats a 3-2 advantage late in the game. This ended up being the game-winning play as Cincinnati was able to keep the UConn bats quiet in the ninth to win the contest by a score of 3-2.

Despite the loss, freshman LHP Tim Cate continued to shine for the Huskies. Cate put in a season-best 6.2 innings of work combined with 5 strikeouts. Two runs scored—but only one was earned—on just one hit allowed by Cate in his performance, for which he received a no-decision.

UConn moves to 13-15 on the season and 1-3 in AAC play.

Game 3

by Shawn McGrath

UConn's pitching had done a great job of holding the University of Cincinnati offense at bay all weekend, but the Huskies struggled to push runners across on Friday and Saturday. UConn had 13 hits Friday, and eight more Saturday, but only two runs in each game to show for it. On Sunday, the pitching continued its performance, allowing just two runs on seven hits, and the Huskies offense came through in a Huskies' 4-2 win.

UConn pitcher Wills Montgomerie (2-1) earned the win and Randy Polonia (4) got the save.

A lot of players stepped up with big plays to secure the much-needed win. Zac Susi threw two runners out trying to steal in the fourth when the Bearcats were threatening, with multiple runners on and no one out. He then led off the fifth inning by sparking the rally that gave UConn its winning runs.

Jack Sundberg hit 2-5 with two doubles and two RBI. Montgomerie, the starter, got eight strikeouts in 5+ innings, only allowing four hits and one run. Randy Polonia pitched 2.1 innings of hitless baseball to get the save. It was a true team effort.

UConn started off strong in this one, something it has struggled to do. Sundberg led off with a double and scored on an error by the Cincinnati right fielder off the bat of Joe DeRoche-Duffin. Bobby Melley made it to third on the next play, but the Huskies were unable to get him across the plate. After half an inning, UConn took the lead, 1-0, and held it throughout the game.

Montgomerie retired the first eight Bearcats he faced and was cruising through three. The Bearcats threatened in the fourth and fifth because of some control issues for the right-hander, but the rally in the fourth was extinguished by Susi's excellent arm. Montgomerie was able to get out of a runner-on-third, one-out situation in the fifth with two of his eight strikeouts.

In the top half of the fifth, UConn broke it open. Susi doubled, Aaron Hill singled, and Sundberg got his RBI, doubling them both home, with Hill hustling all the way around from first. He scored on an error by the second baseman, and UConn was up 4-0 after four and a half innings.

After allowing two singles to start the sixth, Montgomerie was lifted for CJ Dandeneau. Kyle Mottice scored on a Ryan Noda single, and after Dandeneau got an out on a fielder's choice, Doug Domnarski came in and got the final out of the sixth inning to put out the fire. The Bearcats were held to only one run, and UConn had a 4-1 lead.

Cincinnati added one more run in the seventh, but was again limited by the performance of the UConn bullpen. Domnarski allowed two straight singles after one out, then Nico Darras came in to face two batters. He walked the bases loaded, and then drew a ground out which led Cincinnati's second and final run of the game.

Randy Polonia came in to get the final out of the bottom of the seventh, allowed just one runner to reach over the final two innings due to a Bryan Daniello error in the bottom half of the ninth as the Huskies held on for a 4-2 victory.

UConn has two mid-week contests coming up, both in Storrs. They play the Fairfield University Stags on Tuesday at J.O. Christian Field at 3 p.m. and then welcome in Bryant University on Wednesday, also at 3 p.m.