UConn baseball staved off elimination in its second NCAA Tournament game, besting the four-seed Harvard Crimson 10-2.
“Survive and advance. It’s on to tomorrow,” head coach Jim Penders said.
Here’s how it happened:
Offense Explodes in the Second
UConn got all the runs it needed in the top of the second inning, though the inning didn’t start out anything special.
Christian Fedko drew a walk after a length 3-2 battle before Paul Gozzo singled off the end of his bat to right — which advanced Fedko to third. His brother Kyler brought Christian in on a sac fly, putting UConn on the board with two outs and a runner on first.
Then, Thad Phillips ripped a ground-rule double to left. Chris Winkel brought him and Gozzo home on a single up the middle, follow by a single by John Toppa. Anthony Prato blooped a single to left center before Michael Woodworth cleared the bases with a triple to right. Pat Winkel brought Woodworth home on a single — the seventh run of the inning for the Huskies.
UConn brought 12 batters to the plate but even more impressively, it scored six of its seven runs in the inning with two outs. As a team, the Huskies were 10-of-15 when hitting with two outs.
UConn Escapes Trouble
Despite taking a big lead in the top of the second, Harvard had more the a few chances to put a dent in the deficit over the next few innings.
Starter Jimmy Wang loaded the bases and walked a run in, prompting Penders to pull him in favor of Jeff Kersten. He came close to walking in another run — falling into a 3-1 count agains the first batter he faced. However, Kersten locked down and and induced a double play, getting UConn out of the inning with just one run given up.
“We had a terrible inning after we went up 4-1 yesterday and we gave it right back and [the second inning] had that feeling like it was going to get away from us right there,” Penders said.
The next inning, the Crimson loaded the bases again, this time with none out. One run scored on a wild pitch but again, the Huskies buckled down and limited the damage to just the one run.
Again in the third inning, Harvard got a runner to third with two outs but UConn got out of the inning unscathed.
Each inning, things could’ve gone bad quickly for the Huskies. However, UConn’s pitchers did a good job of limiting the damage and maintaining the big lead.
Bats Stay Hot
For the second-straight day, UConn’s offense racked up the hits, collecting 17 on the day. After struggling to get runners home against Nebraska, the Huskies went 5-10 with runners in scoring position today. Every member of the starting lineup picked up a hit with Prato and Phillips leading the way with three hits apiece.
“It’s just our approach when we get up to the plate,” Phillips said on the team’s hot bats. “We can’t get too big, you have to take what they give you, you can’t make something happen out of nothing. A lot of things we’ve been focusing on, just staying short, hitting the ball hard. If it’s an out, it’s an out but as long as you hit it hard it’s a success.”
Through its first two NCAA Tournament games, UConn has 26 hits and 15 runs. If the bats can continue to stay hot, the Huskies will be a tough out — even from the losers’ bracket.
Player of the Game: Chris Winkel
While Phillips mashed Harvard pitching with three hits (and just a home run short of the cycle), Winkel lead the team with three RBI on his two hits.
Quote of the Day
Penders on the three-hour weather delay: “[The team] all wanted to eat. More than 20 minutes with nothing to do they all asked about eating.”
- Despite throwing 47 pitches, Jeff Kersten will be available tomorrow if the team needs him, according to Penders.
- With the victory, UConn has recorded at least one win in each NCAA Tournament appearance of the Jim Penders Era. The Huskies haven’t been swept out of the tournament since 1994.
- Severe weather pushed the game back three hours with first pitch coming just after 5 p.m. instead of the originally scheduled 2 p.m. start time.
- Former UConn and current Arizona Diamondbacks’ shortstop Nick Ahmed tuned in to watch the game:
UConn will look to extend its season once again tomorrow, facing the loser of Oklahoma State/Nebraska at 1 p.m.