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NCAA Tournament: Sloppy Eighth Inning Sinks UConn Baseball Against Washington

Everything fell apart for UConn in the penultimate frame.

UConn’s Mason Feole (21) and Zac Susi (23) await the ball from the umpire after Washington’s Joe Wainhouse hit the go-ahead home run in the 6th inning.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Starting pitcher Mason Feole departed UConn baseball’s NCAA Baseball Tournament opening game against Washington with his team facing a 2-1 deficit. Facing Joe DeMers — who threw a perfect game Feb. 24 in just 84 pitches — he had done his part to keep UConn in the game.

Jacob Wallace started the eighth with a strikeout sandwiched around a pair of walks before things came rapidly undone in what was a 7-1 loss for UConn.

A passed ball and a Levi Jordan single brought in the first of five Washington runs in the frame before AJ Graffanino lined a rocket up the middle. Trying to protect himself, Wallce took the drive off of his pitching hand and immediately left the game in favor of Trevor Holmes.

“He had an X-ray and it came back negative,” UConn head coach Jim Penders said. “We wanted to get off the mound anyway.”

His status for Saturday is unclear.

With a runner on third, Willie MacIver bunted to try and get the run home. Chris Winkel charged from first base, fielded it and threw home to beat Jordan, but his feet-first slide dislodged the ball from Zac Susi’s glove to make it 5-1.

After a single made it 6-1, Conor Moriarty fielded a ground ball at third and attempted to tag the oncoming runner to start a potential inning-ending double play, but the ball came loose and everybody was safe.

The typically steady second baseman Michael Woodworth had an opportunity to end the frame on the next batter when he fielded a touch chopper, but his throw to Anthony Prato at second was offline, allowing a run to score as UConn only got one out.

“That’s not the way we play the game,” Penders said. “We had four balls go off glove that inning and the game got away from us.”

Washington sent 10 men to the plate and did more than enough to negate Feole’s start, who went toe-to-toe with DeMers.

He pitched seven innings, allowing seven hits and two runs to come across. He walked a pair and struck out six.

“If we don’t win a start, it’s not a good start,” Feole said.

On the other side, DeMers looked vulnerable early, as Isaac Feldstein grabbed an RBI to open the scoring with a hard single down the left field line after Prato singled with a flare to right field. Susi also worked a walk to increase his reached-base streak to 46 games, but UConn let him off the hook with a pair of fly-outs.

The junior right-hander took his good fortune and ran with it. Susi was the next batter to reach base, with a two-out hit-by-pitch in the third and Prato was the next UConn hitter to record a hit, with an infield single into the hole between third base and shortstop.

“He did a really good job keeping us off balance,” Susi said. “When you have three pitches going in a game like that you can do some damage.”

Winkel and Christian Fedko each recorded singles in the seventh, looking to tie what was at the time a 2-1 game, but Moriarty grounded into a 5-4-3 double play on the first pitch of his at-bat to end the threat.

UConn (35-21-1) will play the loser of No. 15 Coastal Carolina and LIU Brooklyn in an elimination game at 12 p.m. on Saturday. Chase Gardner will pitch for the Huskies.