If UConn baseball proved last weekend in the regional round that it able to hang with power conference players, the Huskies took it a step further on Friday night with a 13-12 win over No. 2 overall seed Stanford. The win over the Cardinal marked UConn’s first-ever victory in a Super Regional.
The Huskies’ win featured an offensive explosion with 13 runs on 17 hits including seven doubles, three home runs and a near-total collapse by their bullpen. Stanford scored eight runs in the final two innings to nearly tie the game up. The Cardinal had eight home runs on the night, their program-high since 2004.
For UConn, it was a complete offensive performance, with every member of the Huskies’ lineup recording a hit by the second inning of play. Heading into hostile territory, UConn made sure to hit Stanford early and often, sending 11 batters to the plate in the second inning where the visitors scored eight runs.
The Huskies were gifted a run in the first inning after a Cardinal error put Casey Dana on second, and Ben Huber took advantage with an RBI double down the left field line. They picked up where they left off in the next frame, with back-to-back doubles from Korey Morton and T.C. Simmons to start the inning.
Matt Donlan ratcheted the power up a notch with a home run to center field, then three straight hits from David Smith, Erik Stock and Casey Dana kept the parade going. Bryan Padilla sent in Dana with an RBI double and Morton capped off the inning by one-upping the way he started it, with a towering home run over the trees in left field.
Even with that run support, UConn starter Pat Gallagher was shaky early on. The sophomore gave up a pair of two-run home runs in the bottom of the second to cut UConn’s lead to 9-5 but, luckily, he would settle down from there. Gallagher would end the game with 6 1⁄3 innings pitched and just one earned run given up outside of that second inning, striking out eight and giving up just one walk.
UConn got insurance in the fourth inning with an RBI triple from Simmons and an RBI single from Donlan, then again in the top of the seventh with back-to-back doubles from Zach Bushling and Smith, as well as a sacrifice fly from Dana, to make it 13-4.
Stanford showed flashes of their signature power throughout the later innings, culminating in a pair of home runs in the bottom of the seventh to bring the regional hosts within seven, making it 13-6.
The hosts didn’t make it easy on the Huskies in the ninth, plating six runs in the bottom of the frame, giving UConn a good sweat. Star first baseman Carter Graham fired a warning shot in the bottom of the ninth with a two-run homer to make it 13-8 and head coach Jim Penders made the call to his closer Justin Willis. He didn’t have much easier of a time with the potent Stanford lineup, giving up two more home runs to make it 13-12, but ultimately got the final out to end the game.
UConn baseball will play Stanford again tomorrow night at 7 p.m. with a chance to close them out and advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska with ace Austin Peterson set to pitch for the Huskies.