The first three innings could not have gone worse for UConn. After only using two relievers for 1.2 innings combined between their first two games, Coach Penders had to go to the bullpen in the 1st-inning.
And in the end, it resulted in a 9-5 loss for the UConn Huskies to the Memphis Tigers in an AAC semifinal matchup in Clearwater, FL.
Ronnie Rossomando was given the ball to start and he just about gave it right back. He only got two outs, allowing four runs, all of which were earned, on five hits.
Sam Nepiarsky came in to replace him and he did not do much better. He was able to get four outs, but allowed five runs on four hits. Three of those runs were earned. When Joe Rivera came in to pitch, Rossomando and Nepiarsky had allowed eight runs on nine hits. The Tigers had already hit for the team cycle and had eight extra-base hits to their credit.
Despite allowing a sacrifice fly where the run was charged to Nepiarsky, Rivera was the complete opposite of the two pitchers that had taken the ball before him. He pitched 4.0 innings of scoreless ball, only allowing two of the 14 batters he faced to reach, one via hit and one via walk. Rivera stopped the bleeding and kept this game in reach for a potent UConn offense.
It was not the same formidable UConn offense that had come through over the previous 11-game win streak. UConn put runners on second and third with one out in the second, thanks to a single, a stolen base, a walk and a double steal. Unfortunately, no runs came of it.
UConn loaded the bases with nobody out in the fourth, but a ground ball to third became a home to first double play. Connor Buckley singled for an RBI and an Aaron Hill walk reloaded the bases with two outs, but Sundberg struck out looking to end the frame with the Huskies down 9-1. It seemed as though UConn smelled blood, with the Memphis pitcher seeming to tire, but Memphis countered with a reliever who set down the first eight Huskies he faced.
With two outs in the seventh, Sundberg worked a walk. John Toppa and Willy Yahn singled, each swinging at the first pitch, to load the bases. Joe DeRoche-Duffin worked the count full and walked, bringing a run home. Bryan Daniello singled, bringing home two more.
Alex LeFevre, the next batter, took a 2-0 pitch to left, bringing home DeRoche-Duffin from second. UConn had four runs home and only trailed 9-5 in the blink of an eye. Gnesda worked a walk to reload the bases, but Buckley, who had started the inning, was unable to continue it as he flew out to rightt.
Dan Rajkowski, like Joe Rivera, put out a fire, this one in the eighth. PJ Poulin came on to start the inning and allowed to singles after getting the first out. He came in and got a strikeout. He hit a batter to load the bases but was able to induce a ground ball to end the threat.
UConn was unable to get a runner on in the eighth and only got Daniello on in the ninth, with two outs. Daniello was the lone offensive bright spot for UConn, going 4-5 with two RBI and two steals.
First pitch for the win-or-go-home game against Memphis is 5:40 p.m. The winner will play Houston Sunday at 1 p.m. in the winner-take-all championship game on ESPNews.