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UConn baseball sweeps FIU to extend win streak to seven

The Huskies are heating up heading into their first home game of the season

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn baseball’s nuclear hot streak to start the 2022 season continued this weekend with a dismantling of FIU, eking out a 4-2 win on Friday, but earning 9-1 and 15-0 victories on Saturday and Sunday, moving to 8-1 on the year and extending their win streak to seven games.

The Huskies out-hit FIU 42-18 in a thorough domination bolstered by a solid team pitching performance. The usual suspects so far this season — Erik Stock, Casey Dana, Zach Bushling — all contributed to the big series win, but some relative newcomers had an impact as well. Division II transfer Ben Huber raised his batting average nearly 60 points over the course of the weekend, as usual platoon players Bryan Padilla and Korey Morton combined to go 8-for-13 in the series.

Friday: UConn 4, FIU 2

After an unassuming first two series in a UConn uniform, first baseman Ben Huber made his first proper arrival at the Division I level on Friday. The Limestone College transfer went 3-for-5, including a triple and the go-ahead RBI single that helped the Huskies to a 4-2 win over FIU in the opening game.

“That was probably his worst swing of the day, but he found a way get it up the middle. He looked more like himself today,” head coach Jim Penders said.

UConn was able to scratch across a run in the second inning on a hit-by-pitch and an error, but FIU struck back in the fourth inning to tie it up. Starter Austin Peterson got into for all intents and purposes his first real trouble of the season, allowing three singles to start off the inning, but getting out of it just as easy, with a fielders’ choice and two strikeouts to limit the threat.

The two teams exchanged runs again in the seventh: UConn manufactured a run to go on top when Zach Bushling drew a walk, stole second, and was driven home by a single from Kevin Ferrer. Peterson got in trouble again in his half of the inning, giving up four straight singles to tie the game up, and freshman Ian Cooke entered to keep the damage to a minimum.

Cooke did that and more, buckling down to fire two-plus scoreless innings, striking out two without allowing a baserunner.

“I walked out to the mound, I feel perfectly fine, and then as soon as I stepped on the mound everything hit me,” Cooke said. “But then it all just went black and I let it happen, I did what I do.”

He was bolstered by a tremendous play in the seventh by Casey Dana, who threw out a baserunner tagging from third with an absolute hose.

After the Huskies got out of that jam, they got some clutch production from Huber and David Smith, who put UConn up 4-2 with an RBI single. Justin Willis entered the game in the bottom of the ninth and earned the save, putting UConn in pole position for a good series.

Saturday: UConn 9, FIU 1

After grinding out an important win on Friday, UConn’s offense opened up guns-blazing on Saturday with a 15-hit drubbing to win the game, 9-1, and the series with it.

Every spot in the lineup got in on the action with a hit, and Seton Hall transfer Casey Dana led the way, going 3-for-5 with two extra-base hits and driving in nearly half of the Huskies’ runs. T.C. Simmons, moved up in the order to the five-spot this week, had a tremendous day at the plate as well, going 3-for-4 with a double and a walk.

UConn jumped on FIU early and often. Bryan Padilla and Zach Bushling reached base with two singles, then Erik Stock and Casey Dana followed with back-to-back hits to make it 3-0. The three-run third was followed up with a three-run fourth, with RBI doubles from Simmons and Dana to make it 6-0 Huskies.

With a six-run cushion, Pat Gallagher was on cruise control throwing 7.0 innings, allowing just one run in the bottom of the fifth, a solo home run.

UConn would pile it on in the later innings, as Ben Huber would continue his hot weekend with a triple in the seventh, coming around to score on a wild pitch. Casey Dana led off the ninth inning with a towering home run to left field, and Christian Fedko sent a single through the right side to complete the beatdown.

Sunday: UConn 15, FIU 0

If Saturday’s win featured a steady flow of UConn runs, Sunday was a raging waterfall. The Huskies completed the sweep over FIU with an emphatic 15-0 victory to move to 8-1 on the year.

“It was a great team effort overall, that’s how you go and finish someone off today,” Penders said.

UConn jumped out to a three-run lead after the first two innings, but six-run frames in the seventh and eighth innings really put the exclamation point on the result for the Huskies.

UConn received impressive performances on offense from all over the lineup: Erik Stock went 3-for-4 with a double, Ben Huber went 3-for-6 with three runs scored and a double, and platoon outfielder Korey Morton went 4-for-5 with two doubles and two RBIs.

“I gotta give Coach Hourigan the credit there, he said at breakfast that he wanted to get Morton in there and it was great,” Penders said. “He hits the ball hard and he creates so much with his legs.”

Enzo Stefanoni earned the win with another solid performance, tossing 7.0 scoreless innings and reaching double-digit strikeouts for the first time in a UConn uniform.

UConn’s next challenge will come at home against Hartford, after nine straight games on the road. The Huskies will take on the 0-6 Hawks at 3:05 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8 at Elliot Ballpark.