There’s not a whole lot to glean from UConn baseball’s 7-1 loss in their first game of the 2018 NCAA Baseball Tournament. The Huskies fell apart in the eighth inning that head coach Jim Penders described as “a comedy of errors” when Washington scored five runs to pull away with the game.
“In the eighth inning I’m not sure who was wearing the UConn jerseys but it certainly didn’t look like us,” Penders said. “That’s not the way we play the game. We had four balls go off gloves that inning and the game got away from us.”
Luckily for the team from Storrs, it’s not a single-elimination tournament. The Huskies will get another chance today at noon to redeem themselves and stay alive. UConn has typically played well following a loss, losing back-to-back games just three times all season.
“We’ve played our best baseball all season after a loss it seems and after a loss like that, I think we’ll have a little more motivation to come out tomorrow looking to be on top,” catcher Zac Susi said. “I think we’re going to have a really good comeback game tomorrow and get this thing going back in the right direction.”
For UConn to have hope of advancing to a Super Regional, they need to stave off elimination for three straight games and play nearly flawless baseball. It’s a tall task, but it’s also one Penders is familiar with.
In 2011, the Huskies lost the first game in the Clemson Regional before running the table and moving on to the next round for the first (and only) time under Penders. And there’s plenty of similarities between then and now.
“We know the last time we won a regional we were in South Carolina and we lost the first one in miserable fashion to Coastal Carolina,” Penders said. “They blew us out against a first-rounder; knocked Matt Barnes out of the game.”
The coach was quick to remind his team they can still recover as they turn the page to today’s elimination game against LIU Brooklyn.
“I made sure the guys knew that when we were leaving the field today (Friday),” he said. “We’ve lost the first one and won this before.”
However, they can’t simply rest on history to carry them through to the Super Regionals.
“It’s doable, it’s possible, but we gotta believe and we gotta play a lot better than we did today,” Penders said.