No. 22 UConn baseball earned a spot in the American Athletic Conference title game on Friday with a 3-2 walk-off win against USF.
Center fielder Troy Stefanski brought in the run with one out on a chopper up the middle that was out of reach of the drawn-in Bulls infield.
Left fielder John Toppa scored the run after leading off with a bouncing infield single that Andrew Perez couldn’t quite handle off the mound. Toppa got to third when he took the extra base on shortstop Anthony Prato’s line drive into right-center field.
In the first inning, UConn started off hot with a double from Prato that nearly cleared the fence and eventually came across on a wild pitch for an early 1-0 lead.
However, the Huskies’ offense sputtered after that.
They stranded two runners in each of their next three at-bats and in the fifth, walked the bases loaded with nobody out.
Stefanski and second baseman Michael Woodworth each struck out before first baseman Chris Winkel hit a line drive that was right at shortstop Coco Montes to end the threat.
USF took advantage and gained the lead on a pair of solo home runs to left field. Joe Genord tied the game in the third with two down and Duke Stunkel, Jr. gave the Bulls the lead in the fifth.
UConn starter Chase Gardner pitched four innings, allowing one run on four hits and was pitching effectively, but the lineup was about to flip over for a third time, so Jim Penders made the move to his bullpen. CJ Dandeneau, who had yet to pitch in the tournament, gave Stunkel, Jr. a pitch to hit and he took full advantage.
In the sixth, USF got two on with one out before Jacob Wallace entered and preserved the one-run deficit by notching a pair of strikeouts to strand runners on second and third.
The offense took that momentum and scored on another wild pitch. Designated hitter Christian Fedko doubled to left and was replaced by Anthony Nucerino as a pinch runner. The redshirt freshman scored to knot things up.
Wallace got the Huskies through both the seventh and the eighth with shutout frames. He pitched 2 2/3 innings, allowing only a hit and a walk. He struck out five.
UConn (35-19-1) will face No. 15 ECU in the American Athletic Conference tournament championship game at 10 a.m. on Saturday.