Fans at Elliot Ballpark for UConn baseball’s first home weekend series were treated to a thrilling three-game sweep of Rutgers. The weekend was bookended with Husky walk-off victories, while each contest in Friday’s doubleheader was decided by one run.
Dominic Freeberger was the hero on game one of the Friday doubleheader, with a walk-off RBI poke through the right side to give the Huskies a 9-8 win in extra innings, while Ben Huber sent the fans home happy when he smacked a home run on Sunday afternoon to earn the series sweep.
That was far from the only drama to occur that weekend, though. Here’s the lowdown on UConn’s series sweep of the Scarlet Knights:
UConn wasted no time raising fans’ heart rates this weekend, starting in game one of the Friday doubleheader: with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, down one run, Freeberger came in clutch with an RBI groundout to tie the game up and send it to extras. The team’s batting leader wasn’t done with the heroics, either, with a bases-loaded, walk-off single in extra innings to give the Huskies a 9-8 win.
Freeberger’s for Everyone, Dom walks it off in the 11th‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/WNL8jsDb2H— UConn Baseball (@UConnBSB) March 24, 2023
UConn had to catch up right from the beginning, going down 3-0 in the top of the second inning to a potent Rutgers lineup. But. the Huskies responded in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases with no outs, and took the lead right back from the Scarlet Knights. Korey Morton drove in the first run with an RBI double, and Matt Garbowski drew a walk to score a second. Ryan Daniels drove in two with a sacrifice fly deep to right field, with Morton coming all the way from second to score to make it 4-3.
Rutgers tied it back up in the top of the third with a sacrifice fly of its own, and the game would settle down for a few innings. Ryan Daniels was able to put the Huskies back on top in the sixth, driving in two runs with an RBI triple off the top of the wall. He would also draw a bases-loaded walk to add an insurance run in the seventh.
After Rutgers put up a three-spot in the top of the eighth inning to make the score 8-7, Freeberger’s late-inning heroics took over, and helped secure UConn the win. To help keep the score in UConn’s favor, Zach Fogell entered the game from the bullpen in the top of the 10th and tossed 1 2⁄3 hitless innings.
UConn was able to win another nailbiter in the second game of the doubleheader, withholding a late Rutgers comeback to hold on, 6-5.
The home side took a two-run lead to the ninth inning when Justin Willis was called upon to close the game out for the Huskies. Willis allowed two base hits but rebounded to strike out the next two batters before allowing a single to Jordan Sweeney to make it a one-run game. Undeterred, the Huskies’ closer bounced back, drawing a groundout to give his team the victory and earn the save after issuing a free pass to load the bases.
Huskies sweep the doubleheader as the #HookC hangs on 6-5!! pic.twitter.com/EjOW9SZ1DI— UConn Baseball (@UConnBSB) March 25, 2023
Rutgers scored first in the second inning, but Morton gave the Huskies a major response, with a grand slam over the left field wall to give the Huskies a 4-1 lead.
After the Scarlet Knights added two more in the top of the third inning, the Huskies responded with a pair of their own in the bottom of the fifth with two sacrifice flies, courtesy of Jake Studley and Luke Broadhurst.
Redshirt freshman Thomas Ellisen entered the game in relief for starter Andrew Sears, who was getting hit hard, and delivered a clutch four-inning performance, allowing just one earned run and working around some tough situations with men in scoring position to earn the win.
Continuing with the theme of the weekend, the series finale ended with the entire packed crowd at Elliot Ballpark gripping their seats with the game in the balance, watching Ben Huber deliver the killing blow: a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to walk it off for the Huskies, giving them the 9-7 win and a series sweep.
March 26, 2023
The ball was flying out of the park on Sunday afternoon; all nine of the Huskies’ runs and four of the seven Rutgers' runs were scored via the long ball.
The Scarlet Knights started the scoring in the top of the first inning with a Ryan Lasko home run onto the berm in right field on the first pitch of the game. Rutgers loaded up the bases in the inning, but starter Jack Sullivan was able to get out of the inning with just one additional run scored.
UConn bounced right back in the bottom of the inning with home runs from Freeberger and Studley, tying the game at two.
Studley smash and we are tied in the first! #HookC pic.twitter.com/XiyucfgC5P— UConn Baseball (@UConnBSB) March 26, 2023
Rutgers went ahead again in the fourth inning with two quick hits, and threatened to put the game out of hand in the fifth with a leadoff home run, then loaded up the bases with two out against reliever Garrett Coe. But the veteran leader was steady, giving up just one run, limiting the score to 5-2 Rutgers.
Down but not out, the UConn lineup continued to send balls to the opposite side of the outfield fence. In the bottom of the fifth, Freeberger notched his second homer of the day, scoring Morton, who reached via walk. In the sixth inning, Broadhurst notched his fifth home run of the year, a two-run shot scoring Padilla, who reached on a single.
Not to be outdone, Rutgers took the lead back on Lasko’s second deep fly of the day, setting the stage for UConn’s nail-biting comeback in the bottom of the ninth.
UConn will carry that momentum into a packed midweek section of games, starting on Tuesday against No. 17 Boston College at 3:05 p.m., followed by a game Wednesday against Hartford.