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UConn baseball beats Michigan in NCAA Tournament Opener

The Huskies stay out of the losers’ bracket for now and earn a date with Notre Dame on Saturday night.

UConn’s Kyler Fedko celebrates after the win.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn baseball got off to an all-important winning start in the South Bend regional on Friday night, busting out a 6-1 win over Michigan. The Huskies will face Notre Dame on Saturday night for the right to advance to the regional final.

Left fielder Erik Stock was the story of the night. Along with having tremendous facial hair, Stock went 4-for-4 with three RBI. The junior transfer kicked scoring off in the third inning with an RBI single, then ripped a bases-clearing double in the bottom of the seventh to tack on a pair of runs.

The early innings were a story of dueling aces. UConn's Austin Peterson and Michigan's big left-hander Steven Hajjar were dealing through three innings, and both faltered the second time through the order. Hajjar gave up a walk to Kyler Fedko and a single to Chris Winkel with two outs, then Stock’s single put UConn on the board first.

“I was nervous about Austin [Peterson] tonight because he didn't puke, and he always pukes before games,” head coach Jim Penders said. “But he's a really good competitor and he got some big outs today, I'm glad he's on our side.”

Austin Peterson sent down nine Michigan batters in order as he pitched 5.2 innings, allowing just two hits, one run, and striking out seven. The fourth inning was his only hiccup of the night, a solo shot to Ted Burton that tied it up for Michigan at 1-1.

But, as they’ve done all year, UConn started to pull away in the late innings. Stock and Christian Fedko started off the sixth with a pair of singles to bring up Reggie Crawford. UConn’s big-hitting first baseman had everyone in the stadium fooled when he sent a ball hurtling out of the ballpark just foul. On the following pitch, he didn’t flinch, rolling an RBI single through the right side. Crawford went on to steal second, and third baseman Chris Brown came up clutch with a two-RBI single to make it 4-1.

The Huskies slammed the door shut in the seventh inning with three straight hits: Kyler Fedko’s first hit of the night was a double to deep left field, Christian Winkel laid down a perfect bunt single, and then Stock sent them home with his bases-clearing double on a nifty hit-and-run play that was called on the first pitch of the at-bat.

Meanwhile, Randy Polonia had possibly his best performance in a high-leverage situation of all year. His 1.1 innings of scoreless ball could have snowballed out of control with a hit batter and a bunt single, but the sixth-year senior leaped off the mound to throw the batter out effortlessly.

"Randy Polonia's been to hell and back, there's nothing he can't handle,” Penders said.

Garrett Coe, the big lefty freshman, and Caleb Wurster combined to get through the eighth and ninth without allowing a run.

UConn will face Notre Dame at 6 p.m. on Saturday after the Fighting Irish’s dominant 10-0 win over Central Michigan earlier Friday. UConn will likely be starting Ben Casparius on the mound and Penders has said Wurster, the team’s top closer, will be available tomorrow if needed.