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UConn Baseball Title Chances Foiled By East Carolina

The Huskies mustered only two hits in the regular season finale.

UConn’s Willy Yahn makes the throw to first on a bunt in the 7th inning.
Ian Bethune for The UConn Blog

If UConn Baseball could get a win on Saturday against East Carolina, they would have a share of the American Athletic Conference regular season crown, their first conference title since they won the Big East outright in 2011. But the Huskies were not able to pull it off as the Pirates knocked them off by a score of 3-0 at J.O. Christian Field.

UConn only notched two hits, both of which were by left fielder John Toppa.

“We only got two baserunners and it was the same baserunner both times,” Penders said.

Mason Feole pitched seven innings, allowing just one run on six hits. He walked one and struck out one.

“I thought he was good,” Penders said. “They had their best swings on him early and then he settled in there. He was locating down better as the game went on”

While Feole was good, Kirk Morgan was better. The right-hander had thrown just 16 2/3 innings before Saturday and gave the Pirates eight shutout innings, allowing just two hits while taking a perfect game into the fifth.

“We had a good report on him,” Penders said. “He’s going to keep it at the knees and try to get you to chase the slider and he locates well.

“He was a heck of a pitcher today.”

Morgan got all he needed from the Pirates in the third on an RBI double from Nick Barber with two down in the frame. He hit it into the left-center field gap and Keith Krueger dove for it, ranging from center field, but the ball was out of his reach.

The Huskies had a chance to tie it up on Toppa’s one-out single. He stole second, but Morgan induced a fly out to end the threat.

Toppa reached again in the eighth, leading off with a bunt single. He advanced to second on an airmailed throw from Eric Tyler at third, but was stranded. Designated hitter Alex LeFevre, the ensuing batter, squared to sacrifice bunt on the first pitch, but flew out to center, as did first baseman Tyler Gnesda. Pinch hitter Isaac Feldstein struck out to end the threat.

“I saw the defense really commit to the bunt,” Penders said. “If he hit a foul ball maybe it’s back on, but he’s one of our hottest guys right now.”

East Carolina solidified it with two runs in the ninth, while Matt Bridges forced the Huskies to their seventh 1-2-3 inning of the afternoon to close it out.

UConn (31-23, 14-10) will head to Clearwater, Florida for the conference tournament. They will be seeded third and will play on Wednesday at 3 p.m. against Cincinnati.