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UConn baseball loses series to The Citadel

Monday’s game was washed out due to rain.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

After a promising 4-2 start to the 2018 season through two weekends of play, UConn baseball has dropped two games each of the last two weeks, including a pair to The Citadel Bulldogs this weekend. The Huskies were not afforded a chance to even up the series as Monday’s game was washed out by rain.

Outside of Saturday’s 19-hit performance, the offense was lacking, but left fielder John Toppa (.306 AVG/.404 OBP/.429 SLG), catcher Zac Susi (.314/.352/.333) and first baseman Chris Winkel (.314/.400/.457) each recorded a base hit in all three games.

Game 1

Tim Cate delivered another good start, but UConn baseball’s defense again proved sloppy in a 4-2 loss to The Citadel, their third consecutive defeat.

Cate allowed three runs, two of which were earned, on nine hits. He walked two and struck out nine.

He was not his usual dominant self and did not have a clean inning through his outing, but he held a shutout until the sixth, when Taylor Cothran grabbed a two-RBI double.

The only other run Cate allowed was an unearned run in the seventh that proved to be the game-winner on a bizarre play.

Cate missed on a pickoff throw with runners on first and second and it got under Troy Stefanski’s glove in center field and behind him. It was a two-error play, allowing the go-ahead run to come across.

Offensively, the Huskies got to Dylan Spence early on two RBI from Isaac Feldstein, one in the first and one in the third. In total, UConn had six hits on him through four frames.

However, Spence settled in and combined with Jordan Buster and starting third baseman Jonathan Sabo, who came in for the save, to allow just three more baserunners over the final five innings.

UConn’s offense generated just eight hits and worked just one walk, stranding only six runners as The Citadel’s pitching staff shut them down after a shaky beginning.

Game 2

UConn baseball’s offense was not shaky in Saturday’s contest, grabbing 19 hits in a 17-3 drubbing of The Citadel.

Ten of the 14 Huskies to record an at-bat had a base knock, lead by three-hit efforts from left fielder John Toppa and catcher Thad Phillips. Center fielder Troy Stefanski had four RBI.

UConn, after going down in order in the first, sent all nine guys to the plate in the second and scored five runs. Designated hitter Isaac Feldstein, Toppa, Stefanski and third baseman Christian Fedko each singled to begin the frame, with Stefanski’s and Fedko’s of the RBI variety.

Second baseman Michael Woodworth tripled and right fielder Anthony Nucerino doubled to bring home three more runs to make it 5-0 Huskies. It was Nucerino’s first career hit and RBI.

Mason Feole did not need any more run support. He did not have his strongest outing and struggled with control, finishing with seven walks to go along with a hit batter in 5 2/3 innings, but he allowed just one run and was able to get out of jams when he needed to.

He stranded five runners in scoring position, including leaving the bases loaded in the second innings. The Bulldogs’ only run came on a sacrifice fly after a one-out walk.

UConn added a run in the fifth on Feldstein’s solo home run but put it away with a seven-run sixth inning.

The Huskies scored their runs on six hits, sending 10 batters to the plate, bookended by a three-run home run from Troy Stefanski. Toppa and Nucerino had the other RBI, each coming on two-RBI singles.

UConn scored four more over the eighth and ninth and The Citadel added a pair, but the game was never close.

Game 3

The Citadel came back and retook the lead in the series on Sunday, winning 4-2 over UConn baseball.

The two teams combined for just 13 hits, seven of which were delivered by Husky batters.

UConn starter Chase Gardner held the Bulldogs in check early, allowing just one runner to each second base in his first three innings, but a pair of leadoff walks in the fourth ruined his shutout when Taylor Cothran gave The Citadel a 1-0 lead with a single.

JD Davis worked another leadoff walk in the following inning and came around to score on a squeeze bunt from Andrew Judkins that doubled their lead.

On the mound, the Huskies were stifled early by Alex Bialakis. He only had four strikeouts, but allowed just three UConn batters to reach base through five innings and worked effectively, allowing his defense to work for him.

In the sixth, the Huskies were able to get back to even with a pair of runs. Shortstop Anthony Prato and catcher Zac Susi each singled and designated hitter Isaac Feldstein had runners on the corners as Prato used his speed to go from third to third on the base knock. Feldstein’s sacrifice fly cut the lead in half and after two wild pitches put Susi on third, second baseman Christian Fedko’s single eliminated it.

UConn and The Citadel held even until the seventh, when William Kinney’s fly ball to left field snuck just inside the foul pole for a two-run home run. Jonathan Sabo, who started at third base and came in to pitch the final two innings, allowed just one single over his outing to record the save.

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UConn baseball (6-6) has a midweek matchup looming against Coastal Carolina on Tuesday at 4 p.m.