The 3-seeded UConn Huskies opened up NCAA Tournament play against the 2-seeded Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and came away with a win thanks to a big inning at the plate.
UConn built a 7-0 lead in the second inning and seemed to be sitting pretty. The Huskies had just sent 11 men to the plate and hit four doubles to push those seven across the plate. Georgia Tech's starter didn't make it out of the second and then the bullpen came in. After the second inning, UConn registered two hits and two walks with only one runner reached scoring position.
Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets scored at least one run in each of their last four at-bats, ending the game with the tying run 90 feet away and the winning run on first.
Willy Yahn went 3-5 with a double and two RBI. Joe DeRoche-Duffin added two more hits, both of which were in the second inning. He went 2-4 with a double and an RBI. Tyler Gnesda (1-4) had two RBI, while Aaron Hill (1-3) and Bobby Melley (1-3) each added one.
The only offense the Huskies had was in that second inning but luckily it was enough to win the game. DeRoche-Duffin led off with a single and John Toppa took an up-and-in pitch off the arm, which Zac Susi followed up with a walk. Gnesda got his two RBI with a single to left on a 2-1 count, while a Hill double into the left-center gap brought home Susi.
Willy Yahn doubled home both Hill and Gnesda with two outs on a line drive down the left field line and Zac Ryan, Georgia Tech's starter, was done for the day. Melley doubled to bring Yahn home, who scored on a first-pitch double from DeRoche-Duffin, for the seventh run of the inning. UConn was sitting pretty after two, 7-0.
The Yellow Jackets' bullpen shut down UConn's offense for the rest of the game, only allowing four runners to reach base in the final seven innings of the game.
Tim Cate, the freshman left-hander from Manchester, Connecticut, threw a good outing for UConn and put them in a position to put the game away in the later innings. He threw 6+ innings, allowing two runs on three hits. He struck out six and walked two. Cate came out to start the seventh, but after allowing a lead-off single, he handed the ball to freshman Randy Polonia.
"I thought Tim Cate did an unbelievable job," Coach Penders said of his starter. "It's unbelievable to some folks but not unbelievable to him, and that's the whole key. He's got a lot of confidence in himself for an 18-year-old."
After Polonia came into the game, Georgia Tech started to mount a comeback. When he entered, it was 7-1 with a runner on first and one out. Polonia struggled to find the zone throughout his outing and walked the first batter he faced. After getting a ground out, he got a fly out to right, but Georgia Tech was able to bring a run home on a close play at the plate. After seven, it was 7-2 in favor of UConn.
Dandeneau came in with two out in the seventh, ending it with a strike out, but it was the only out he would get. He walked the lead off batter, and then gave up a deep two-run home run to Matt Gonzalez over the left field fence. It was 7-4 and Jim Penders turned to closer Pat Ruotolo to come in for the six-out save.
In the ninth, the Yellow Jackets were able to get two runs on four singles and a walk. The Huskies were playing no-doubles defense with a lead in the ninth, and bloopers were able to fall in. Ruotolo had runners on the corners, with the winning run at first, when he induced the pop out to Bobby Melley at first to end the game.
The Huskies (38-23) will face the winner of Florida and Bethune-Cookman Saturday at 6 p.m. The match-up between the Gators and the Wildcats will be at 6 p.m. Friday.I thought Tim Cate did an unbelievable job. It's unbelievable to some folks but not unbelievable to him, and that's the whole key. He's got a lot of confidence in himself for an 18-year-old.