UConn was down 4-0 heading into the second half of the first inning of their midweek game against Central Connecticut, but you certainly wouldn’t know it by the end of the game. By the top of the ninth, their early deficit felt like a week ago. The Huskies outscored Central by 23 in the remaining innings to defeat their in-state rivals 25-6 in the most lopsided Huskies’ win of the season.
First baseman Ben Huber sparked the rally in the bottom of the first inning with a two-out RBI single, and it was all plain sailing from there.
“They hit us in the mouth pretty good, and it was a really good counterpunch to get three of them back in the first inning,” head coach Jim Penders said.
After that, the runs came easy and UConn scored in fistfuls: The Huskies had six-run innings in the second and seventh, a five-run inning in the fourth and a pair of three-run innings in the first and the fifth.
Eight of nine UConn starters had multi-hit games, including center fielder T.C. Simmons, who was 5-5 with two triples and a home run. His fifth and final hit of the game bounced off the top of the wall and it looked like it was going to end up the double he needed to complete the cycle, but the Central outfielder crashed off the wall and it ended up as Simmons’ second triple of the game.
“I was seeing it well and being patient, you have to understand and be pitch selective and take what they give you,” Simmons said.
Not to be content with heroics at the plate, Simmons contributed in the field as well with a slick leaping grab in center to rob the Central batter of extra bases.
Simmons led off for the first time in the season, a suggestion from UConn’s analytics team according to Penders, with usual leadoff hitter Zach Bushling in the five spot.
The shortstop was about as efficient as he could have been with his two hits of the contest: A pair of three-run home runs, one in the second and one in the fifth. The second of those was one of the longest hit at Elliot Ballpark this season, easily clearing the batter’s eye over the 400-mark in center field.
“It felt really [good] off the bat. I was hoping to leave and it did, but it went a lot further than I thought it would,” Bushling said after the game. “Don’t tell Huber this, but I think I got it on him [in distance].”
Huber himself had two hits, one of them a bases-clearing double. Erik Stock got on base in four of five plate appearances, with a pair of hits and a pair of walks. David Smith got in on the action as well, going 2-4 with two RBI and a stolen base, his 11th of the season and a team-leading number.
Overall, the Huskies had season highs in multiple categories: 24 runs, 20 hits, and tying their season high with seven extra base hits. The Huskies used seven pitchers in the game, none for more than two innings of work. Freshman Ian Cooke looked the most impressive of the bunch, retiring five Central batters and allowing just a single walk.
“Everyone was finding holes today, we were able to put the bats where we needed them,” Bushling said.
UConn baseball is back in action on Wednesday against Merrimack at 3:05 p.m. in more midweek action, weather permitting, then will host St. John’s at Elliot Ballpark in their first conference series of the year.