UConn baseball visited Xavier for a three-game series between the two Big East powers. The Huskies won the first and third games to claim victory on the weekend and secure a path to their third-straight Big East regular season crown.
Xavier’s Hayden Field, with dimensions of only 310 feet down the lines, 355 feet in the power alleys, and 380 feet to dead center field, creates some offensive fireworks. This was the case throughout the weekend.
Game 1: UConn 7, Xavier 6
Friday afternoon’s series opener saw six home runs, the lowest total from the weekend’s three games.
UConn used the big fly to come back from 6-3 after five innings to secure a 7-6 win. Luke Broadhurst, who went deep twice on Friday as part of a 4-for-4 day, started the scoring in the second with a solo shot and then brought his team within one in the sixth when he went yard with Jake Studley on base. Ben Huber and Studley then went back-to-back in the seventh to put UConn ahead for good.
Andrew Sears, pressed into the Friday role with Ian Cooke out due to injury, surrendered a pair of home runs in 4 1⁄3 innings of work, giving up six runs (four earned) on five hits and three walks and registering seven strikeouts.
The bullpen settled down, however, as Devin Kirby replaced Sears and though he surrendered three hits, walked a batter, and hit another over two innings, no runs scored. Thomas Ellisen and Zach Fogell finished the bridge to closer Justin Willis, who retired the final two batters of the game to notch his sixth save of the season and tie the program’s career record at 22, which he holds with Mike James.
Game 2: Xavier 18, UConn 8
In the first half of Saturday’s doubleheader, Xavier blitzed UConn with an early explosion. The Musketeers put up a four-spot in the bottom of the first, including a lead-off homer by Jack Housinger.
Bryan Padilla provided some fight for the Huskies with a two-run homer in the top of the second as part of a multi-hit performance and Huber added a two-run shot of his own in the following frame to tie the game at 5-5, but that would be as close as the Huskies would get.
Jack Sullivan pitched just two-plus innings and he was charged with the first five of Xavier’s runs. Garrett Coe, his replacement, didn’t fare much better, as he gave up a home run to the first hitter he faced. He gave up three runs and recorded just three outs. Will Nowak followed and Xavier scored another trio of runs on him in 1 1⁄3 innings.
By the time Nowak was lifted in favor of Michael Quigley, there was one out and runners on second and third in the bottom of the fifth, with the home side holding an 11-5 advantage.
Quigley quieted the fire in the fifth and gave up just one in the sixth, but Xavier put up a four-spot in the seventh, all of which were on his tab. This negated UConn’s comeback bid in the sixth, when Korey Morton brought in a run after he beat out the back end of a double play ball and David Smith brought him in with a two-run home run. That temporarily brought the deficit to three runs.
Game 3: UConn 11, Xavier 9
It can be difficult to wash off such a dominating defeat in just 35 minutes, especially when a team goes down again with an early deficit, but in this game, UConn came back from a two-run deficit on two separate occasions to grab an 11-9 victory and claim the series win.
Home runs by Matt McCormick in the seventh and Grant Stephenson in the eighth pushed the Musketeers from one down to two up headed into the ninth inning. Dominic Freeberger singled to start off the frame and after a productive out from Huber moved him to second, Studley hit a homer over the left field fence to re-tie the ballgame at 9-9.
Broadhurst then worked a deep count and singled and then Ryan Daniels sent the first pitch he saw out of the ballpark to give his team the lead. Daniels was one of three Huskies, including Freeberger and Studley, to register multi-hit outings.
The pair of big flies were two of three UConn home runs, as Huber hit a three-run shot back in the third to give the Huskies a temporary 5-4 advantage.
After each starter faced the minimum in the first inning, Matt Garbowski opened the scoring with a two-RBI double to right field, That lead wouldn’t last long, however, as the hosts put up four in the bottom half.
Quigley gave his team length that was desperately needed after Sullivan failed to finish the third earlier in the afternoon, pitching 6 1⁄3 innings, but was tagged for seven runs and nine hits. He would also walk three and grab five strikeouts. Zach Fogell finished the game with 1 2⁄3 no-hit frames to earn the series-clinching victory.
These two teams played in the previous two Big East Tournament championship games, with UConn winning both while also winning the Big East regular-season crown. The Musketeers are the biggest threat to a three-peat, and while the No. 20 Huskies had their hands full with two close wins and a big loss, they put themselves in the driver’s seat with this series victory.
Up next, UConn (26-9, 4-2 Big East) has a pair of midweek games against Quad 1 opponents this week before returning to Big East play. The Huskies will host Northeastern on Tuesday, with the first pitch coming at 6:05 p.m.