UConn came out Saturday afternoon ready to play following a Friday rain delay, notching its 23rd win of the season in a 10-1 beatdown of Memphis on the road. Anthony Kay shined in his 11th start of the season in the opening game of Saturday's doubleheader while Joe DeRoche-Duffin and the UConn offense stayed hot at the plate.
Kay continued to show why he is a highly-touted MLB prospect. The junior left-hander has gradually improved in nearly every aspect as the season has progressed. Kay delivered eight strong innings Saturday afternoon, giving up just one earned run on nine hits. His five strikeouts moved him to third on UConn's all-time list with 227, passing Tim Norton (226).
Connecticut struck first in the contest on an Aaron Hill single which plated freshman Zac Susi in the top of the third. The RBI was Hill's 12th of the season. Memphis was able to strike back in the next frame after a pair of base knocks and an RBI ground out evened out the ballgame at 1-1.
An RBI single in the top half of the fifth by captain Jack Sundberg ended up being the deciding factor in the game as UConn took a 2-1 advantage. The Huskies never looked back from this point as a Willy Yahn single scored second baseman Aaron Hill to extend the lead to 3-1 to close out the top of the fifth.
Senior Joe DeRoche-Duffin belted his 11th home run on the season in the very next inning. The solo shot gave UConn a 4-1 lead and was also his third home run in his last five at-bats. A Connor Buckley single up the middle later in the inning made it 5-1, giving Anthony Kay plenty of run support as he continued to deal.
Buckley tallied his second RBI of the day in the top of the eighth on a sacrifice fly to center. Four runs in the top of the ninth, highlighted by a Bryan Daniello three-run home run to right, gave the Huskies a 10-1 lead. A quick inning of relief by reliever Sam Nepiarsky in the bottom of the ninth gave UConn the victory by a final score of 10-1.
After UConn pulled away late in the first game of the doubleheader, they continued their hot scoring streak, getting five runs in the top half of the second, to jump out to a 5-0 lead early. Even though Memphis responded with two runs in the bottom half to cut the deficit to three, the Huskies added two in the fourth to make it 7-2.
But in the bottom of the sixth Memphis stormed back.
The Tigers sent 11 men to the plate and scored six runs on only four hits, taking an 8-7 lead. They threatened for more, leaving two men on, yet UConn was able to hold them.
To the Huskies' credit, they did not roll over, and instead pulled off the victory. Randy Polonia (3-2) earned the win, while Pat Ruotolo got the save, his fifth of the season.
Offensively, UConn took advantage of walks, working six, while being hit by four pitches. Despite scoring 11, UConn only had nine hits, two of which belonged to Willy Yahn. Jack Sundberg hit a grand slam, adding four RBIs to his total.
In the first game, UConn had a four-run ninth. They kept it going early, putting a five-spot up early. Zac Susi had runners on first and second and singled, bringing Joe DeRoche-Duffin around to score, drawing first blood. After a Connor Buckley walk and an Aaron Hill fly out, Jack Sundberg took a 2-2 pitch deep, clearing the bases that were full of Huskies. Quickly, it was 5-0.
Jason Santana doubled in the bottom half of the inning, bringing home a run. The next batter, Jake Overbey, had runners on second and third. He put the ball in play, bringing home an additional Tiger run. After two innings, it was 5-2, in favor of the Huskies.
Things were quiet until the top half of the fifth, when DeRoche-Duffin went deep. His 12th of the season, good for the American Athletic Conference lead, was a two-run home run which gave UConn a 7-2 lead after four and a half.
In the bottom of the sixth, things went sour for the Huskies. Brandon Grudzielanek reached after striking out on a wild pitch with one down and Memphis took advantage. Chris Carrier doubled him home, and then came in to score from second on a bizarre sacrifice fly. Sundberg made a diving catch in the gap, but the ball was deep enough for him to get all the way around. The Tigers had now closed the lead to 7-4.
Starter Tim Cate's last batter, Trent Turner, walked, Santana doubled and both were brought home on an Overbey single to make it 7-6.
A few batters later, Jake Little came up with the bases loaded. He singled home two runs in order for Memphis to take an 8-7 lead. Randy Polonia got the final out, but the damage was done.
UConn deserves a lot of credit for what happened next. On the first pitch he saw, Willy Yahn came just shy of a home run, instead settling for a stand-up double off the left field fence. He came in on a wild pitch to tie it. DeRoche-Duffin worked a walk, Bryan Daniello was hit by a pitch and Susi earned a walk as well, loading the bases with two down for Connor Buckley. Coach Penders, trying to take the lead, ran a gutsy play.
Buckley was down 1-2 and Daniello took off for third, which was occupied, pretending to trip on the play. Santana, the catcher, tried to retire Daniello to end the inning, but DeRoche-Duffin was able to score and Daniello slid into third safely to give the Huskies the lead going into the seventh inning stretch, 9-8. They would not surrender it.
UConn added two more in the following inning. Aaron Hill walked to start it. Sundberg sacrificed to move him into scoring position, while Yahn brought him in with his second wall-ball double of the game. Daniello hit a sacrifice fly to bring the game to 11-8.
Memphis manufactured a run in the bottom half, courtesy of an infield single, a failed pickoff throw and a ground out, in order to set the stage for Ruotolo to shut the door in the bottom of the ninth. He made it interesting, allowing two on with two out, but he got the strikeout to end the game.
It was a weather shortened affair in Memphis on Sunday. UConn had already clinched the series after sweeping the Saturday doubleheader, but a sweep over the worst team in the conference by RPI would have benefited the Huskies and their pursuit of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
However, as they were mounting a comeback, inclement weather entered the area and the game had to be called with a runner on first and two outs in the top of the seventh. Bryan Daniello was due to bat.
Wills Montgomerie (3-3) was served the loss, even though he did not have a bad outing. He went 5+ innings, allowing three runs, two of which were earned, on only five hits. He had three strikeouts and two walks.
Montgomerie gave the Huskies enough to pull out the sweep, but through the first six innings, the UConn bats were quiet. Runners were getting into scoring position, aided by Memphis pitching allowing four walks, in addition to a hit batsman. Getting baserunners was not the problem, it was getting them across the plate.
The Huskies got on base in six of their seven at-bats, but were 2-13 with runners on base, and 1-9 with runners in scoring position. The only hit belonged to Joe DeRoche-Duffin, a single that plated Melley in the seventh. This was also the last time anyone entered the batter's box before the game entered the rain delay it would never leave. The only other hit with runners on belonged to Melley, who hit a double in the seventh to score Yahn.
Through three innings, neither offense had mounted anything substantial. UConn had gotten runners on the corners thanks to a walk and a hit by pitch with one out in the second, but Memphis buckled down and got the final two outs without incident. Memphis also had two on and one out in their half of the second, but a double play ended the threat.
Memphis broke through for two runs in the fourth. Two singles to start the inning, combined with a sacrifice bunt, put runners on second and third with one out. Montgomerie got a ground ball, but the defense was playing back and the run scored.
During the next at-bat, Alex LeFevre let a pitch get away from him and the throw to get the runner at third was short and skipped to the outfield, allowing another run in. After four, Memphis had a 2-0 advantage. That error would prove costly, with UConn able to push two runs across in the seventh.
After a lead-off walk, Montgomerie was lifted for Devin Over. He allowed a double to Jacob Elliott, which scored Memphis' third run. A ground out to the left side moved Elliott to third, and the inning ended when Elliott was tagged out trying to take home on a pitch that skipped away from LeFevre. Memphis had a 3-0 lead after five.
In the sixth, UConn was able to load the bases with two down without registering a hit after working three walks. Zac Susi pinch hit for Tyler Gnesda and he took a 2-2 pitch that was called for strike three to end the threat, leaving the deficit at 3-0.
In the seventh, UConn made it almost all the way back, but they lost the race with Mother Nature and the game with it. Aaron Hill singled to lead it off, but was retired on a fielder's choice by Willy Yahn, who beat out the double play that would have ended the inning.
Bobby Melley came up and turned on one, doubling down the right field line. Yahn hustled all the way around the bases, scoring from first. Joe DeRoche-Duffin came up next and he singled to left. Melley came around and scored, to bring the deficit to one.
The Huskies were threatening, but with Bryan Daniellio about to step in, lightning struck. After an 80-minute delay, the game was called, giving Memphis the victory.
UConn falls to 24-19 on the season and 8-6 in American Athletic Conference play. There are no midweek games this week due to finals, but the team will return on Friday for a weekend series with East Carolina at J.O. Christian Field. First pitch is at 3 p.m.