After inconsistent play to start the year, UConn baseball was done messing around this weekend against Florida Atlantic, sweeping the red-hot Owls and giving them their first series loss of the year.
The Huskies’ offensive problems were somewhat relieved, winning 6-4, 5-1 and 8-2, and found stability on the pitching side as well, boasting a 1.67 team ERA over the three games.
UConn notched a series sweep that could look pretty good come NCAA tournament time. Here’s how they did it:
The Huskies started out the series with a gutsy 6-4 win over Florida Atlantic off the back of a solid pitching performance from Ian Cooke and a four-run sixth inning, leading to their fourth win of the season.
The teams were tied at 1-1 heading into the sixth inning when Luke Broadhurst singled, stole second base and scored on a Korey Morton grounder that was too hot for the shortstop to handle. Back-to-back doubles from Dominic Freeberger and Ben Huber tacked on two more for the Huskies, then a Bryan Padilla RBI single rounded out the scoring and take it from 1-1 to 5-1.
Freeberger and Huber both continued their hot start to the season, combining to go 5-for-7 on the night and driving in two of the Huskies’ six runs. Ian Cooke had another good night on the mound, earning the win with 6 1⁄3 innings pitched, allowing four hits and two runs, only one of which was earned, while also striking out four. The UConn bullpen was solid behind him, combining for 2 2⁄3 innings and one earned run, while Justin Willis earned the save with a no-hit ninth.
The Huskies held off a late comeback attempt from the Owls as they narrowed the lead to 5-3 with a two-run seventh with an insurance run in the eighth, loading up the bases and plating Huber on a hit-by-pitch to keep them at arms’ length.
The Huskies rode a dominant pitching performance from the entire staff to a 5-1 win in the middle game, clinching its first 2023 series win on Saturday.
Wheaton transfer Stephen Quigley kept Florida Atlantic at bay for nearly all of his 6 2/3-inning stint, allowing just three hits, two walks and striking out five en route to his first win of the season. After Quigley exited, UConn’s bullpen backed Quigley up expertly: Will Nowak, Braden Quinn and Willis combined to throw 2 1⁄3 innings of one-hit, shutout ball to secure the victory.
Both sets of bats were quiet until the later innings. The Huskies scored first in the third inning on a double from David Smith, but failed to add on until the seventh. Freshman infielder Ryan Daniels made the most of the pinch-hit opportunity given to him with a double to right field, and was driven home by Matt Garbowski with an RBI single.
The Huskies tacked on three more in the eighth inning. Smith led off with an RBI double, Freeberger and Jake Studley walked to load up the bases, and Padilla cleared the bases with a three-RBI double to make it 5-1, where the score would stay for the rest of the game.
UConn notched another comfortable win in the series finale, scoring five runs in the fourth inning to put Florida Atlantic away, 8-2.
After starting pitcher Andrew Sears didn’t have his best stuff on the mound, redshirt freshman Thomas Ellisen entered in relief and had one of the best outings of his young career, pitching 3 2⁄3 shutout innings to help earn the series sweep.
The Huskies struck in the first inning, scoring two on a Freeberger homer over the left-field wall, but the Owls tied it up in the bottom of the second. Taking advantage of Sears’ control issues, Florida Atlantic scored two runs on four walks and a hit batsman, but the tall left-hander was able to alleviate the damage by drawing a pop out to end the inning.
The Huskies were able to go ahead again in the fourth inning, starting off with Padilla, who reached on a walk and got to second on a wild pitch. Freshman Maddix Dalena also recorded a free pass and Ryan Hyde got drilled to load the bases. Smith brought in one run with a single, while Morton brought in another with a sacrifice fly. Huber drove in a pair with a double and he would come home on a single by Studley.
Huber punished Florida Atlantic again in the sixth inning with an RBI single, ending the night 3-for-4, finishing his breakout weekend 6-for-12 and raising his batting average from .192 to .289 over the course of three games. Freeberger also had one of the better weekends at the plate, finishing the series 4-for-8 at the plate with a home run, a double and four walks.
The Huskies will look to extend their hot streak and avoid a letdown game in their first home appearance of the season, taking on Hartford at 3:05 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7 at Elliot Ballpark.