UConn baseball made their trip down to Port St. Lucie, Florida worth it on Sunday, clinching their first weekend series of the year over Michigan, two games to one.
Michigan is ranked ninth in the D1Baseball.com poll but 1st overall accoring to Baseball America, making this the first series win the Huskies have ever scored over a team ranked No. 1 in any major poll.
Here’s how it went down:
UConn might have closed out the weekend against Michigan on Sunday, but they won the series first in the top of the sixth inning on Friday. The Huskies were down 6-2 after a rough bottom of the first inning from starter Joe Simeone, allowing five runs in the first inning off four walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch.
The Huskies were able to scratch together two runs in the next frame, courtesy of a Kyler Fedko single that drove home Paul Gozzo and redshirt freshman Kevin Ferrer’s first hit that scored Fedko in turn. UConn’s rally stopped there though, and Michigan’s star center fielder Jordan Nwogu put a dent in the Huskies’ comeback effort with a towering shot to left field, keeping them at a distance.
Their comeback had to wait for the sixth inning, where leadoff man Zach Bushling started the inning with a double, and Chris Winkel was able to work a walk. UConn was starting to get to Michigan starter Jeff Criswell.
“The guys trusted [the gameplan] and we just wore him out a little,” head coach Jim Pender said in a postgame interview. “They had to take them out a little bit earlier than they wanted to, and the guys just kept scuffling. That’s a really big arm right there that they...wore down.”
It was Kyler’s brother, Christian’s time to spark a comeback, with a bases-clearing double. Catcher Paul Gozzo moved Christian over to third with a base hit, then freshman first baseman Reggie Crawford tallied his first of many RBI on the weekend with a sacrifice fly to send him home. Gozzo was sent home on a throwing error, and the game was tied at six.
Michigan wouldn’t go quietly in the first game, though, and went back on top in the bottom of the 6th. UConn would tie the game back up in the top of the second with back-to-back doubles from Crawford and Kyler Fedko. His brother, Christian, would complete the remontada in the next inning, with an RBI single that scored Chris Winkel.
An important trio of young arms helped hold down the comeback: sophomores Will Lucas, Andrew Marrerro and freshman Jack Gallagher combined to pitch 6.1 innings, allowing just a pair of runs while striking out 13 and only allowing two walks and three hits.
On Saturday, the Wolverines reminded UConn why they were rated one of the most fearsome teams in the country with a dominant, 14-2 win. Michigan jumped on starter Colby Dunlop early, chasing him after three innings in which he allowed six runs on six hits.
Newcomer Max Nielsen didn’t fare too much better in the fourth, getting just one out while allowing six runs to score. This was Nielsen’s UConn debut, along with redshirt freshman Leif Bigelow and two-way transfer Erik Stock, who had a pair of hits before taking the mound in the eighth inning in a scoreless frame.
After a disheartening second game, UConn came back impressively to take the rubbermatch of the weekend by a score of 9-2.
Junior college transfer Nick Krauth set an example for the rest of the Huskies in his second matchup with Michigan in seven days. The 6-foot-3 junior fired five innings of one-run ball, allowing just three walks and two hits, fanning five. UConn wasn’t able to get going on offense right away, waking up with a two-run fourth inning, followed by a six-run fifth to put the Wolverines away.
“He’s got really good stuff, but what’s the most impressive thing about him is his poise,” Penders said in postgame interview. “After we put up a couple runs, it looked like he had a different gear, you know, smelled some blood in the water.”
The middle of the lineup did most of the heavy lifting in the Huskies’ series-clinching game, with Crawford leading the way. The freshman had an absolutely nuclear game, going 4-4 with three doubles, one of with was mere inches from being the first home run of his career.
“[Crawford] has a very advanced approach, he’s not afraid of being ‘the guy’,” Penders said, going on to compare his short time at UConn to George Springer’s as a freshman.
Kyler Fedko also continued his hot start to the season, going 2-for-3 with two RBI, a double and two singles. Gozzo found his rhythm at DH for the day, going 2-for-3 with a double and a home run.
Fresh off a statement series win, the Huskies will travel to the Big Easy next week to take on the University of New Orleans in a three-game series. The Privateers struggled in the season-opening tournament that they hosted, but recovered to sweep a three-game series against Arkansas State this weekend.