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No. 22 UConn Baseball Tops Wichita State in AAC Tournament

Tim Cate rescued the Huskies, who appeared to be on the brink of the loser’s bracket.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

No. 22 UConn baseball won its second game of the day and earned a semifinal birth after the late afternoon session at the American Athletic Conference tournament on Wednesday, topping Wichita State, 7-5.

Tim Cate entered a tie game with one on and one out in the fifth and after walking the first batter he faced, retired the next nine and 11 of the next 12 to bring UConn through the middle innings when starter Chase Gardner could not.

Cate threw 3 2/3 shutout innings, allowing just the walk and a single. He struck out seven.

The Huskies scored a run in the first when left fielder John Toppa, who led off the game with a walk and recorded a pair of hits, came across on a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of right fielder Isaac Feldstein. UConn was out to an early 1-0 lead, but things rapidly came undone.

In the second inning, Wichita State sent 10 men to the plate and brought in four runs, despite recording just two hits. Gardner threw three wild pitches, two of which were on strike three, allowing the batter to reach. Gardner also walked a pair.

It was a nightmare inning for the Huskies, who seemed destined to get kicked to the loser’s bracket. However, the offense came through with three runs in the fifth to tie it up.

Toppa kick-started it with a single, eventually coming home on a passed ball. Shortstop Anthony Prato worked one of his two walks, scoring when right fielder Isaac Feldstein hit a wall-ball triple deep to center field, with Travis Young just missing a leaping grab that would have ended the inning. Center fielder Troy Stefanski completed the comeback with a single just to Luke Ritter’s right at second base.

Gardner, who pitched 4 1/3 innings, had allowed four runs with three walks and seven punch-outs but surrendered his fifth hit with one down in the following half-inning, causing Jim Penders to go to the recently reactivated Cate.

To thank him for his effort, catcher Zac Susi, who was hit by a pitch in the first to make it 42 consecutive games reaching base, and Stefanski each delivered RBI knocks to make it 6-4 headed into the seventh-inning stretch.

Prato followed it up with a single through the left side in the eighth that got through two diving Shockers and brought home the Huskies’ seventh run.

UConn (34-18-1) advances to the semifinals, where the Huskies will face the winner of Wichita State and USF at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday.