UConn baseball continued its non-conference trip in the Sunshine State with a dominant weekend against North Florida in Jacksonville. The Huskies outscored their opponents 27-8 over the three games en route to a series sweep over the Osprey.
The Huskies are now 5-1 on the season, with impressive wins over Louisville and USF. Read about how their most recent series went here:
Game One: UConn 11, North Florida 5
In the first game of the series, UConn’s potent offense was able to erase early mistakes on defense, handing the Huskies an 11-5 victory to open the series.
Austin Peterson had a great outing for the second Friday in a row, throwing 6 innings and striking out 10. He allowed four runs, but none of them were earned — an overthrow on a grounder to third ended up putting the Huskies down 3-0 early.
UConn was quick to pick themselves back up in the following frame with a two-out rally starting from the top of the order. After Matt Donlan and Chris Brown struck out and lined out, respectively, second baseman David Smith was able to reach base with a walk, then Zach Bushling drove his first home run of the year to the opposite field, cutting the Ospreys’ lead to 3-2.
Oppo !— UConn Baseball (@UConnBSB) February 25, 2022
Bush with his second of the year to cut into the deficit! pic.twitter.com/9rThLjrRz5
UConn continued the comeback later in the inning with a parade of hits following Bushling’s knock. Erik Stock and Ben Huber had a pair of singles, then Casey Dana got the first hit of his monster night with a bases-clearing double down the left-field line to put the Huskies in front, 4-3.
Those three, plus Bushling, were the engine for UConn’s offense, combining to go 6-for-17 with five runs scored, seven RBI and two extra-base hits.
UConn tacked on insurance runs in the fourth and fifth, with an RBI single from leadoff man David Smith and a double from left fielder Kevin Ferrer driving in Dana and Huber to make it 7-3. The Huskies’ bats would settle down until later in the game, and a four-run eighth would put the game out of reach for the Ospreys, with a triple from third baseman Chris Brown, who was driven home with a sacrifice fly from Bushling and a two-RBI double from Stock.
True freshman Ian Cooke provided another stabilizing outing in relief, taking over for Peterson in the seventh and closing out the game, allowing just a single run through three innings of work.
Game Two: UConn 11, North Florida 0
The Huskies’ offensive explosion continued in the second game of the series, tuning up the North Florida pitching staff in a shutout win with 11 runs on 14 hits, earning the series win on Saturday.
It was a good, old-fashioned drubbing up and down the lineup, with all nine starters recording a hit, while eight of the nine scored runs.
Redshirt freshman Bryan Padilla made his debut in a UConn uniform and ended up pacing the Huskies in offensive output, going 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI from the eight spot in the lineup.
Quite a debut for Bry!— UConn Baseball (@UConnBSB) February 26, 2022
Padilla with a two-run single to double the lead for the Huskies! pic.twitter.com/nqGqUEeuH1
Right from the start, it was apparent that North Florida’s pitching staff was not equipped to deal with UConn’s potent lineup. The Ospreys went through nine pitchers in the game, and four of them failed to make it through an inning on the bump. The Huskies scored their first run on a bases-loaded walk in the second inning, and made it 2-0 in the third with an RBI double from Casey Dana.
The Huskies would do most of their damage in a nightmare fifth inning for UNF, where they batted around, scoring six runs on just two hits. The Ospreys would prolong their misery by changing pitchers three times, making two errors and hitting three different UConn batters.
With an 8-0 cushion, UConn starter Pat Gallagher was able to get into a groove and recover from a tough opening weekend outing. The second-year player went 7 scoreless innings, limiting the Ospreys to just three hits, striking out nine.
UConn would get insurance in form of a three-run eighth inning, with an Erik Stock blast to left field and a bases-clearing double from freshman catcher Matt Garbowski pushing the Huskies’ lead to 11-0.
Garbowski and Stock, along with first baseman Ben Huber, all had multi-hit games for the Huskies.
Game Three: UConn 5, North Florida 3
It wasn’t quite as gaudy for UConn on Saturday, but the Huskies were able to grind out a 5-3 win in 10 innings to close out the series sweep.
With the bases walked full of Huskies in the top of the 10th, a sacrifice fly from Zach Bushling and a single through the right side from Erik Stock was enough to put the Huskies ahead.
Captain follows with a clutch RBI knock! pic.twitter.com/ZH9SPiCLH1— UConn Baseball (@UConnBSB) February 27, 2022
UConn hopped out to an early lead in the top of the first, as David Smith led off the game with a single, stole second, then got driven home by a Bushling double. In the third inning, the Huskies would extend their advantage with a home run from T.C. Simmons and a sacrifice fly from first baseman Ben Huber.
The Huskies’ advantage wouldn’t last, however, and the Ospreys came storming back in the very next frame. Two straight doubles and a sacrifice fly brought them within one in the fourth inning, and the Huskies weren’t able to gain more than a one-run difference between them and their opponents.
UConn left six men on base between the fourth and seventh innings, and UNF was able to take advantage with an RBI double that tied the game at three.
But the UConn bullpen buckled down and limited the damage. Freshman Jack Sullivan pitched 2 scoreless innings in relief of Cole Chudoba, and Justin Willis earned the win and the save, entering to record the final out of the ninth inning and earning all three outs in extras.
UConn will continue their Sunshine State road trip next weekend about 300 miles south of Harmon Field against Florida International, with first pitch at 7 p.m. on Friday.