UConn baseball ran up against a red-hot Xavier offense on Friday night, falling 7-2 in the opening game of the weekend series for the first time this year.
The Huskies now sit 14-2 in the Big East, just three games up on Creighton, who won vs. Butler earlier in the day.
UConn outhit Xavier in the first five innings and Austin Peterson pitched a very solid game, but the Musketeers came up in the clutch, which made for the difference on the night.
“They were very efficient with their offense, the runners that they got, they seemed to score,” head coach Jim Penders said postgame. “We had plenty of baserunners and didn’t get that hit to get them in.”
Peterson gave his team a quality start, going seven innings and allowing three earned runs, while striking out nine.
The bumps in the road came in the second and fourth innings: In the second frame, an error allowed center fielder Garrett Schulz to reach base, and he was promptly knocked in with a deep home run to right-center field from Andrew Walker. In the fourth inning, it was Xavier’s big-hitting Luke Franzoni with the crushing blow, sending another pitch skyward to the deepest part of the park, making it 3-0, and Xavier followed up with an RBI single in the sixth to make it 4-1.
Peterson didn’t get much help from the UConn defense, which had an uncharacteristically shaky night with two errors that led to two runs.
UConn’s own slugger Ben Huber gave the Huskies some life in the bottom of the fourth with a long ball of his own, sent on a rope directly to the College World Series banners on the practice facility beyond left field.
But UConn couldn’t capitalize on the momentum, repeatedly getting traffic on the basepaths but unable to knock them in — the Huskies left nine runners on base and six in scoring position. Xavier added three more in the eighth inning, and shut down the Huskies’ comeback attempt in the ninth after just one tally.
The Huskies will be right back at it tomorrow at 1:05 p.m. attempting to strike back against Xavier to keep their series win hopes alive after their first Friday loss of the season. UConn has not lost a weekend series this year.
“Maybe we got that experience so we don’t have to go through that again,” Penders said. “If it does happen again, we have to know that we can bounce back.”