In an instant classic in the Conway Regional of the NCAA Baseball Tournament, Christian Fedko’s solo home run with two outs in the eighth eliminated No. 15 Coastal Carolina as UConn baseball took a 6-5 win over the Chanticleers.
The two teams were tied 2-2 after the seventh-inning stretch but the Huskies and Coastal Carolina combined for seven runs afterwards, helped by UConn’s 8-for-16 performance with two outs.
“For two months we were out-hit with two outs almost double and that was what I thought the last frontier for us was developing as an offense,” UConn head coach Jim Penders said. “There’s no practice for that except being in that situation again and again and we finally came through.”
The Huskies scored all of their runs with two down.
Davie Inman got two quick outs in the seventh of a 2-2 game before Anthony Prato drilled a go-ahead home run to left and then Isaac Feldstein bested his effort.
Zac Susi singled, one of his two hits on the day to increase his reached-base streak to 48 games, and Feldstein fouled three pitches off with two strikes. On the ninth pitch of his at-bat, he got a slider and took a no-doubter over the fence to give UConn a three-run advantage, the first of multiple lead changes at the end.
“The talk in the dugout the who game was, ‘we’re winning the game, we’re winning the game,’” Penders said of his team handling the momentum swings.
Trevor Holmes, who had a 1-2-3 seventh inning, walked No. 9 hitter Matt Beaird to lead off the eighth and Prato committed an error. After a long fly-out for 20-home-run-hitter Seth Lancaster, Penders went and got the redshirt senior in favor of Jacob Wallace.
Wallace didn’t have it. A walk loaded the bases and Zach Biermann earned his third and fourth RBI with a single through the right side. Wallace then walked two consecutive batters to walk in the tying run before CJ Dandeneau came from the bullpen gate in right field to get a pop up that ended the inning.
Then came Fedko’s magic.
After two quick outs, the freshman got a 1-1 pitch to drive, and he knew it was gone right away.
“He always believes he’s going to get the job done,” Penders said. “He hit his first home run and it looked like he had hit 100 of them. He went around the bases a little too slow but in this situation, we’ll allow him a little leeway. He hit a big one.”
PJ Poulin, typically the team’s closer, dazzled for the Huskies in his first start of the season.
His only mistake on the afternoon was a solo home run in the second to Biermann, allowing only a pair of runs on five hits. He walked one and struck out six in a career-high six innings of work.
“PJ did an unbelievable job keeping hitters off balance,” Penders said. “We were anticipating throwing Jeffrey Kersten until I got a text from [Poulin] at about 10 p.m. saying he wanted the ball...That’s the kind of courage and tenacity and guts that this guy has.”
His counterpart on the mound, Zack Hopeck, stood toe-to-toe with the junior left-hander.
He rolled through UConn the first time through the order, but better at-bats the second and third time through led to more pitches and better ones to hit.
This came to fruition in the fifth as Feldstein tied the game and gave his side the lead with one swing of the bat.
Fedko and Michael Woodworth singled, with Zac Susi working an eight-pitch walk to extend the inning and load the bases for the senior. Feldstein then lined the first pitch he saw into the right field corner for a pair of runs.
“Having [Feldstein’s] bat in the lineup is always huge,” Poulin said. “He’s a big part of the offense and we when we can turn the tides and get the momentum back in our favor is always huge.”
Biermann collected his second RBI of the afternoon with an two-out single in the sixth that re-tied it at 2-2.
UConn (37-21-1) plays Washington at 6 p.m. tonight. Jeffrey Kersten will pitch for the Huskies.