The UConn Huskies were ranked 24th in the coaches poll heading into Tuesday’s road trip to Holy Cross and backed up their billing with a 9-6 win over the Crusaders in Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field.
“We’ve just been finding a way,” center fielder Troy Stefanski said. “So much has gone on; guys going down left and right, then guys coming back and stepping up. We’re just finding a way to win games.”
Left fielder John Toppa led the contest off with a walk. The Huskies were threatening after he played hit-and-run with Stefanski, who had three singles on the day, to put runners on the corners. A Zac Susi groundout and a fielding error at first base gave UConn an early 2-0 lead.
In the next inning, the lead became 3-0 when second baseman Michael Woodworth scored while right fielder Anthony Nucerino got caught in a rundown.
Colby Dunlop pitched 3 1/3 innings for the Huskies, an improvement from Saturday. He allowed four hits, three runs, walked three and struck out three, with all three runs coming on one swing of the bat. Colton Hector’s drive to right field with the bases loaded got over Nucerino’s head, clearing the bases and tying the game in the bottom of the third.
“[Dunlop] needs to make progress each time out,” head coach Jim Penders said. “We need to get him more consistent.”
However, the Huskies got it back and then some in the top of the fourth.
Woodworth and Nucerino both got on base after drawing walks. On third baseman Conor Moriarty’s sacrifice bunt attempt, Kyle Johnson’s throw to first was high, scoring Woodworth and putting runners on the corners. Stefanski and shortstop Anthony Prato each recorded an RBI single, with Stefanski eventually coming in on one of four balks by Holy Cross.
UConn led 7-3 and Dan Rajkowski entered the game in the bottom of the fourth with runners on first and second with one out. He pitched two innings, striking out five of the seven batters he faced, allowing only a walk.
“He was great,” Penders said. “He gets the ball and there’s a sense of calm that comes over our dugout.”
That walk, to lead off the sixth, would score on Alex Volpi’s home run, which canceled out the pair of runs the Huskies got in the top of the inning.
Catcher Zac Susi, who has now reached base in 25 consecutive games, had an RBI single in the frame and UConn’s ninth run came home when designated hitter Thad Phillips beat out the back end of a double play.
Next up, UConn (23-12-1) is scheduled to face Rhode Island at home on Wednesday at 3 p.m.