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UConn baseball defeats Villanova in three-game conference series

The Huskies took the rubber match on Sunday to earn the victory in their penultimate conference series.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn baseball came out on top over Villanova in their penultimate regular season series of the year, winning two games to one. The Huskies lost a close contest on Friday, 3-2, but rebounded on Saturday and Sunday with 9-4 and 4-3 victories. respectively.

It looked like the series was done and dusted midway through the third game on Sunday. UConn was down 2-1 in the top of the fifth inning and on their way to losing its second of three games when Kyler Fedko sent a fastball skyward to score his brother Christian and Zach Bushling to go ahead, 4-2. The Huskies went on to win the game and the series, putting them in pole position to make the Big East Tournament.

Game one (Friday)

UConn’s new ace Austin Peterson gave his team a commanding 6.0 inning scoreless start but the Huskies couldn't take advantage of his quality performance and lost the game in the late innings by a score of 3-2.

VIllanova Ballpark played host to a pitchers’ duel on Friday night as Peterson ran up against Gordon Graceffo, the Wildcats’ ace. Peterson was good but Graceffo was better, firing 8.0 innings, fanning 12 Huskies and walking none.

UConn’s bats finally woke up against the big junior in the sixth inning, scratching across two runs by generating traffic on the basepaths. Kyler Fedko doubled down the left field line in the sixth and came home by a single from Chris Winkel. Erik Stock reached on a single in the next inning, Patrick Winkel moved him to second with a picture-perfect sacrifice bunt, and Chris Brown sent him home with an RBI single.

Thee Huskies couldn’t hang on to a two-run lead going into the eighth inning. Andrew Marrero had the first blown save of his UConn career, allowing three runs in the bottom of the eighth, including the tying run which reached home on an error.

Game two (Saturday)

UConn bounced back in game two of the series on Saturday in an offensive explosion where 11 of 13 runs were scored via the long ball. The Huskies came out on top in the home run derby, 9-4.

UConn found itself ahead again in this one, as Brown came up with an early two-out base hit that scored Stock and Patrick Winkel, the only two runs in the game that didn’t fly over the fence.

Villanova responded immediately with a single and a home run, only the first and second hits given up by starter Ben Casparius in the game. This time, UConn was quick to respond.

Brown came up in the clutch again with a two-out home run — the second of his UConn career — to make it 4-2. Chris Winkel followed in his lead in the sixth inning with a two out, three-run home run, down to his last strike, making it 7-2. Stock took advantage of a shaky Villanova bullpen in the top of the ninth, putting the game to rest with a two-run home run.

Game three (Sunday)

Stop me if you've heard this one before: UConn baseball trails in the latter half of the game, then gets a flurry of late runs to take the game and the series. It’s happened in the last two conference series and it happened again on Sunday afternoon.

Kyler Fedko took a 3-2 fastball away to the opposite field with Christian Fedko and Bushling on base, giving the Huskies a 4-2 lead and putting them in the drivers’ seat to take the series and get one step closer to the regular season conference title.

The Huskies kicked off the day by manufacturing a run through Kevin Ferrer, whose two-out single turned into a 1-0 lead after Crawford advanced him to third base with a single, and he reached home on a passed ball.

Freshman Pat Gallagher’s starting performance wasn’t spectacular, but it was enough to get the job done, allowing three runs and striking out six, limiting the free passes to just one walk and one hit-by-pitch.

Gallagher was relieved by Randy Polonia and Justin Willis, who combined to fire two scoreless innings to set up Caleb Wurster, whose magic left arm delivered for his sixth save of the year.

UConn now sits 25-16 overall, No. 40 in RPI and 9-4 in conference. The Big East requires teams to play 14 conference games to qualify for the tournament, so UConn will need to complete just one of its remaining four games against Seton Hall.

The Huskies have the potential to finish anywhere from first to fourth, depending on how results go elsewhere this weekend. The Seton Hall series will kick off on Thursday, May 20 at Elliot Ballpark in Storrs.