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UConn baseball rides hot eighth to beat Hartford

The Huskies put up seven runs in an eighth inning that saw 12 batters step up to the plate.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

At the seventh-inning stretch, UConn baseball had a 1-0 lead over Hartford, but the Huskies scored eight runs over the seventh and eighth and rode their late-game offensive explosion to a 9-1 win in their home opener.

Left fielder John Toppa (2-for-4) was the only Husky with multiple hits, but catcher Zac Susi and first baseman Chris Winkel each had multi-RBI games.

The Hawks and UConn always play tight games and lately, Hartford has come out on top, as the Huskies have not won since 2013. This one was no different.

Tim Cate pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings, allowing just two hits. He struck out six and walked a pair.

“[Cate] was great,” Susi said. “He had to pitch on one day shorter rest, he did really well. His curveball command was really good.”

He did not allow a runner into scoring position until the sixth, when a leadoff walk got 90 feet from scoring after a wild pitch and a sacrifice bunt but never scored. He would also leave the game with the bases loaded in the seventh, but Jake Wallace would come in and induce a ground ball to preserve Cate’s shutout.

“That was huge,” Toppa said. “[Wallace] has been awesome these past couple weeks, coming in in tough spots and getting the job done every time.”

Right fielder Isaac Feldstein led off the second with a home run over the left field fence, but through the rest of the early and middle stages of the contest, the offense sputtered until the seventh inning.

Zachary Ardito misplayed a ground ball at third from Toppa that allowed the frame to continue, which gave the Huskies their first of many insurance runs. Shortstop Anthony Prato came to the plate and his single through the left side made it 2-0.

In the eighth, 12 batters would head to the plate for the Huskies. Nine of the first 10 batters would reach for UConn on five hits and three walks, with a hit-by-pitch from Feldstein that kicked off the fireworks.

Susi and Winkel each had multi-RBI hits that kept the ball rolling.

“We were squeezing the bat a little too tight early,” Toppa said. “To get separation was huge.”

UConn (13-9) takes on CCSU on Friday at J.O. Christian Field. Mason Feole (3-0, 3.74 ERA) is the Huskies’ probable pitcher.