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UConn baseball falls to Southern Mississippi in game one of weekend series

The Huskies dropped Friday’s series opener in an exciting-but-sloppy affair

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn baseball lost to Southern Mississippi 6-5 in a wild and wooly affair on Friday night that featured 16 hits, four home runs, a COVID-safe umpire argument and entirely too many free bases to open their three-game series in Hattiesburg.

The Huskies had a slim 5-4 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth when the normally-reliable Kenny Haus entered the game. But after striking out the first batter, two walks and a hit-by-pitch didn’t make things easy on closer Caleb Wurster, who gave up a go-ahead two-run double to Southern Miss’ hero of the night, junior left fielder Gabe Montenegro.

“You just don’t see that from Kenny, he just wasn’t himself,” UConn head coach Jim Penders said after the game. “He showed that he was human tonight.”

After a relatively quiet weekend against an excellent Virginia staff, the UConn offense didn’t waste any time getting on the board. Erik Stock and Andy Hague kicked the game off with back-to-back singles.

Pat Winkel then sent what would be his first of two fly balls deep into the night, straight into the right fielder’s glove—or was it? Southern Miss’ hot prospect Slade Wilks misjudged it and made the catch look awkward. In the ensuing confusion, Hague tagged and scored from first, Winkel thought he was safe, and both managers came out of the dugout to argue with the umpire, but only to their respective foul lines. You have to be COVID-safe, of course.

Meanwhile, Ben Casparius didn’t have quite as solid of a start this week compared to last. He was taken yard by Montenegro on the first inning, who jumped on a first-pitch fastball for his first homer of the year.

The Huskies bounced back, though, and responded with some deep blasts of their own. Chris Winkel would get his first hit of the season in style with a home run to the deepest part of the ballpark, and Pat Winkel would follow suit with another homer.

But Casparius would get himself into trouble yet again in the fifth inning with two walks to kick off proceedings. Like they would continue to do all night, they would come back to haunt the UConn pitching staff, and two doubles in the inning drove in three runs, giving the lead back to the Golden Eagles.

Christian Fedko wouldn’t let the Huskies go down with a fight, however. The junior tacked on to his blistering start to the 2021 season with a two-out home run in the top of the sixth, and followed it up with a diving stop in the bottom of that inning with runners on second and third that to kept the game tied up.

UConn followed it up with a big seventh inning of their own, but it wasn’t enough to secure the win. David Langer, returning to the lineup after a nagging injury kept him out of the first weekend, opened the inning with a double. Chris Winkel got on base with a single, his second hit of the night, and Hague drove Langer home with a sacrifice fly. That RBI capped a big 2-4 night for Langer after slotting into the lineup in place of Zach Bushling, who missed this game due to suspension after breaking team rules.

The Huskies will look to bounce back on Saturday with Joe Simeone on the mound at 2:00 p.m. before wrapping up the series Sunday with a 12:00 p.m. tilt.