Freshman lefty Tim Cate is the reason UConn beat ECU Saturday night. Yes, the offense scored five runs on 10 hits. But ECU starter Jimmy Boyle held the Husky bats in check for most of the evening, with the game looking like it would be another pitcher's duel after an extra-innings battle played out similarly in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader.
The Huskies scored all five of their runs in the final three innings, and could have had more, leaving six runners on base in the final third of the game.
The Huskies were not hitting, but luckily Cate was dealing. He threw seven full innings, scattering five hits, with one run allowed to go and striking out a career-high 11, against only one walk. Cate got into some trouble in the third, when a single followed by a double scored the Pirates' only run, but that was it.
He also finished strong, allowing only one runner to reach base in his final four innings, but still faced the minimum amount of batters, as that runner was caught stealing as part of a strike-out-throw-out double play to end the sixth.
The game started getting interesting in the top half of the seventh inning. Melley was retired to start it, and Joe DeRoche-Duffin singled through the left side on a full-count offering from Boyle. Bryan Daniello flew out to center and it looked like the Huskies were going to end another inning scoreless as the next batter, Tyler Gnesda, started with an 0-2 count.
He took two pitches and singled to left, getting DeRoche-Duffin to third. Then John Toppa knocked the first pitch he saw to right field, doubling DeRoche-Duffin home and moving Gnesda to third. Zac Susi had runners on second and third and took a four-pitch walk to load the bases.
Aaron Hill, sporting a batting average under .150 on the season, was next to the plate. He worked the count full and earned a walk to score another run. Meanwhile, Boyle threw two wild pitches, bringing Gnesda and Toppa home. UConn had a 3-1 lead and held on for the win.
UConn threatened in the eighth but was not able to push a run across, stranding runners at first and second. In the ninth, they added two runs. Aaron Hill doubled one in and then Willy Yahn sent Hill home with a single. Yahn was left stranded on third, but the Huskies had all the runs they would need.
Patrick Ruotolo came on after Cate's seven strong innings, earning the save with two perfect innings.
Yahn finished 3-5 on the day, bringing his hitting streak to 14 games. Joe DeRoche-Duffin also had a multi-hit performance, as did John Toppa, who added an RBI.
UConn improved its record to 21-17 overall, 6-4 in American Athletic Conference play. The rubber game of the series is scheduled for Sunday at 12:30 p.m.