UConn baseball opened their season in spectacular fashion, taking two of three games from the No. 4 Louisville Cardinals in Lakeland, Florida. It is the first time the Huskies have defeated a top-five opponent since 2001 and the first time they’ve done so in the Jim Penders Era.
Game 1: UConn 3, Louisville 2
The Huskies got a strong performance from starting pitcher Jeffrey Kersten, who pitched in place of ace Mason Feole. Kersten threw 6.0 innings, allowing just one run (none earned) on five hits and three walks while striking out two. Jake Wallace pitched two innings of relief with three strikeouts, earning the save without allowing a walk or hit.
In the bottom of the ninth, Louisville came up trailing by one run. Wallace struck out the lead-off batter before hitting the second batter of the inning. The Cardinals brought in a pinch runner and the next batter flew out to give UConn the second out of the inning.
Facing Justin Lavey, Wallace threw a pair of wild pitches that allowed pinch runner Danny Oriente to advance to third. With the tying run 90 feet from home plate, Wallace struck out Lavey to give the Huskies the win.
Catcher Paul Gozzo hit a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning that would end up being the difference in the ballgame. Shortstop Anthony Prato drove in right fielder Anthony Nucerino in the fifth inning off a single to left while third baseman Conor Moriarty added another with a sacrifice fly to left-center field that would’ve scored more if not for a spectacular catch from the Cardinals’ centerfielder.
Game 2: Louisville 12, UConn 2
Louisville seemed bent on revenge in the second game of the series. UConn starter Colby Dunlop was lit up, giving up eight earned runs in 2.1 innings. However, the Huskies’ bullpen put in a strong performance. Although they trailed by 11 after four frames, Angus Mayock, Jimmy Wang and Kenny Haus combined to throw 6.2 innings, allowing just two earned runs.
UConn’s offense was silenced, managing just two hits on the day.
Game 3: UConn 8, Louisville 3
Since the Huskies were without Feole in the series, Penders opted for a bullpen day in the final game. Joe Simeone got the ball first, throwing 3.0 innings while limiting the Cardinals to just two runs.
Louisville jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning but sophomore second baseman Christian Fedko broke the game open for the Huskies with a grand slam in the third inning. It put UConn up 4-1, a lead they did not relinquish.
Catcher Thad Phillips added another run in the fourth inning, singling through the right side to score first baseman Chris Winkel. Phillips was involved again when the Huskies scored in the seventh, this time coming to the plate on a single from John Toppa. Winkel added insurance runs in the eighth with a two-run homer.
In the bottom of the eighth, UConn found themselves in a jam with bases loaded and two outs. Penders went to closer Jacob Wallace, who got to a 2-2 count with Ethan Stringer. Wallace hit Stringer, but the umpire ruled that the batter didn’t make an effort to get out of the way of the ball and called strike three, getting UConn out of the inning.
- Catcher Pat Winkel left the first game with a hamstring injury and did not return the rest of the series. Paul Gozzo replaced him in the first game and started game two, going 1-3 from the plate with a home run and a walk. Phillips started game three and also went 1-3.
- Louisville out-scored UConn 17-13 in the series.
- UConn started 14 different position players this weekend and used 11 different pitchers.
- Prior to this weekend, the last time the Huskies beat a top-five opponent was May 6, 2001, when the upset No. 1 Notre Dame 19-12 in South Bend. UConn finished that season 26-25 under then-head coach Andy Baylock.
- Star pitcher Mason Feole will miss the first few weeks of the season. He suffered a minor triceps injury in mid-Janury that has since healed, but Feole still needs to work his arm into shape.
- UConn should move up to the top-25 after the strong performance this weekend. In the preseason, they were ranked No. 32 by Baseball American and No. 35 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA).