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Five-Run Second Inning Propels UConn Baseball Past Wichita State to AAC Championship

The Huskies put together a balanced effort on the back of pitcher Colby Dunlop to reach the AAC Championship for the seventh time under head coach Jim Penders.

Michael Chiovitti (4) hit a 2-RBI single that curled past the diving glove of first baseman Mason O'Brien in the second inning in their 8-3 win over Wichita State on Saturday. UConn will face either Cincinnati or UCF in the AAC Championship on Saturday.

UConn baseball cruised to the AAC Tournament title game on Saturday behind a five-run second inning, defeating Wichita State 8-3.

This will be the Huskies’ second-straight appearance in the championship game and their third in the last four years. Here’s how they got there:

Chiovitti Comes Up Clutch

Michael Chiovitti picked a good time to get his fifth hit of the season, sending a two-RBI double curling past the diving glove of first baseman Mason O’Brien. The bases were loaded; Paul Gozzo double into right, Chris Winkel walked and David Langer had a single to left field.

“I was just looking for a fastball, he came through with a slider first pitch which I wasn’t expecting, but I laid off it, then got a fastball to hit,” Chiovitti said.

UConn was down 2-0 after a shaky start from Jimmy Wang, who was unable to get through two innings. They needed a clutch hit and Chiovitti delivered.

“In tournaments, it always comes down to guys that haven’t done it during the course of the year,” head coach Jim Penders said. “They have to come through, and [Chiovitti] did right there.

This kicked off a five-run second inning: Chris Winkel came in on a balk, Anthony Prato brought Chiovitti home with an RBI single and Pat Winkel scored one more with an RBI fielder’s choice.

Colby Dunlop Battles Through Five

After Wang’s tough first two innings, Colby Dunlop entered the game and put in a warrior’s effort. The sophomore was only originally slated to pitch two or three innings, but ended up going 5.1, allowing just two hits, no runs and no walks while striking out three.

“I thought he was the whole key today,” Penders said. “His stuff was darting all over the place, he was keeping them off-balance.”

The Shockers could barely touch Dunlop; the fiery right-hander retired six straight upon entering the game, then ten straight after giving up two hits.

“The changeup was the key to my success,” Dunlop said. “The fastball was alright, the curveball was alright, but the changeup really let me play off of them.”

With plenty of his help from the offense, Dunlop set it up perfectly for Caleb Wurster and Jacob Wallace to close the game out. Those are two pretty good friends to have if you’re a UConn pitcher, even if you want to take it all the way yourself.

“I was hoping we wouldn’t need those guys, but having that safety behind you is really huge for the team,” Dunlop said.

Production From All Areas

The Huskies got good at-bats up and down the lineup: Seven players recorded hits and every Husky got on base at least once. The bottom of the order has raked in the tournament so far—the seven-through-nine spots in the order have hit .285—and the top is starting to catch up, especially Michael Woodworth. The California native went 2-4 today after an 0-5 start to the tournament, his first multi-hit game since April.

“I think the confidence is growing and the guys know: ‘If I don’t get it done the next guy’s gonna get it done,’” Penders said. “It’s the next man up.”

Paul Gozzo and David Langer have continued to tear the cover off the ball as well. The former is riding an eight-game hitting streak with a single, two doubles and a home run in the tournament, reaching base four times on Saturday. Langer went 2-for-4 with a single and a double on Saturday, hitting .300 so far in Clearwater.

Shockers Worn Out

Wichita State had completely exhausted their pitching staff throughout the week, and it certainly showed on Saturday. Wichita State used seven different pitchers against the Huskies, giving up a less-than-great 11 walks and a balk.

“They were trying to mix and match. The key was that second inning, we scored five, they were giving us some free stuff and after they scored, their starter didn’t really hold it together,” Penders said.

Already mistake-prone, the Shockers got even sloppier after their starter was pulled, adding four errors throughout the game, two of which put UConn's lead even further out of reach later in the day.

Highlights

Up Next

UConn will face the winner of UCF and Cincinnati, who play this afternoon. If Cincinnati wins, they're in the championship game. If UCF wins, they force an elimination game later tonight, the winner of which gets to face off against the Huskies. Keep on eye out here for more updates.

Update

After Cincinnati’s comeback victory over UCF on Saturday, they’ll be the ones to face UConn on Sunday in the AAC Championship.