It wasn’t easy, but UConn baseball pulled off a 10-7 win on Sunday against Southern Miss. For them to at least take something from the weekend after dropping the first two games is impressive and beneficial for the Huskies’ tournament resume. Nothing is ever easy when you play one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country.
“We can’t be high and low all [season], we need to have a regulator button,” head coach Jim Penders said after the game. “It was not smooth sailing, but this place is a tough place to play.”
Reggie Crawford is fast becoming a force of nature in the middle of the UConn order. The second-year player had the best offensive game of his young career with two home runs and six of UConn’s 10 runs driven in. He had a two-run, opposite-field moonshot in the 4th inning that opened up the scoring in the game; and his three-run blast in the 5th extended the lead to 6-0 after back-to-back doubles from Patrick Winkel and Erik Stock.
Reggie's homer from the fifth inning, his second of the day pic.twitter.com/KFK6jNYbzZ— Lukefrom2011 (@Lukefrom2011) February 28, 2021
Meanwhile, junior college transfer Austin Peterson was showing the stuff that made him so effective as a freshman at Purdue. He was pinpoint accurate with almost no wasted pitches, sitting down the first nine batters of the game. He allowed just two hits in 6.0 innings of work, striking out eight and walking just one. His lone earned run came in his final inning of work, a solo home run to the nine-hitter, Dustin Dickerson.
“I would say the fastball placement was the best thing for me today, I was able to move it all around and they were swinging the bat and I was getting them out,” Peterson said.
UConn extended its lead to 7-0 with an RBI single from Winkel in the 6th, and it seemed the Huskies would rest easy with a big lead. But Southern Miss battled back.
Colby Dunlop relieved Peterson in the 7th and it did not go well. He allowed a home run to Charlie Fischer, a double to Chris Sargent, and a second dinger to Reece Ewing, all absolutely plastered balls early in the count. The score was now 7-4.
Penders made a call to Andrew Marrero who got out of the inning with minimal damage (a sacrifice fly to Dickerson), assisted by a tremendous diving play from third baseman Chris Brown, whose error extended the inning earlier.
Here's that nice play from Chris Brown I forgot to post that helped Marrero get out of the 7th with minimal damage pic.twitter.com/fV0WwGqq7I— Lukefrom2011 (@Lukefrom2011) February 28, 2021
UConn responded by adding some much-needed insurance. Brown hit a single to start the inning, followed by a Chris Winkel single and another one from Zach Bushling that drove in a run. Erik Stock then sent two more runs home with a double, and UConn made it 10-5.
The pesky Golden Eagles just wouldn’t go away, though. They scraped two more runs through in the bottom of the eighth. Marrero gave up a hit-by-pitch and a walk to start the inning, and another sloppy infield error scored them both. It really shouldn’t have been as close as it ended up, but UConn’s star closer Caleb Wurster held strong, completing a two-inning save to give the Huskies their second win of the season.
Although they’re now 2-4 on the season, the Huskies’ season is off to a perfectly fine start. They have a -1 run differential through six games against two squads who are very likely to finish in the top 30 in RPI at the end of the year.
UConn next will head to Conway, South Carolina to take part in a four-game tournament where it will play Miami (Ohio), Davidson, and Coastal Carolina twice. The first pitch against Miami is at noon on Friday.