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UConn baseball sweeps UMBC; second straight weekend sweep

The Huskies are heating up heading into conference play next weekend.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn baseball has hit a groove at the right time this season. With its three-win weekend against UMBC, the Huskies are heading into conference play with two straight series sweeps under their belt, and boast an impressive 17-3 record since the start of March.

Jim Penders’ squad acquitted themselves well in non-conference play, and there’s a good chance that its RPI at the end of the season could thank them for it.

Here’s how the Huskies’ final non-conference series of the season went down:

Game 1:

UConn took control of the series from the start, rolling over UMBC 9-4 to win the opening game of the series.

The Huskies received a top outing from starting pitcher Ian Cooke and a clutch offensive performance en route to the Friday victory.

Cooke pitched six innings and struck out eight, tying a season high, allowing just three hits and three walks on the night, with two runs coming across. The junior right-hander was zeroed in on the zone, throwing 61 of 99 pitches for strikes.

Luke Broadhurst provided some spark from the offensive side of things, going 2-for-2 with three RBI, and Korey Morton backed him up with a 3-for-5 day at the plate, including an inside-the-park home run, rounding the bases in under 15 seconds.

UConn’s lineup was too much for UMBC ace Luke Johnson, knocking him out in the second inning after scoring five runs on five hits, forcing him to throw 61 pitches before exiting the game.

The Huskies tacked on runs in the third and fourth innings, and two in the seventh against the Retrievers’ bullpen.

Game 2:

UConn followed up its healthy win on Friday with an even more dominant showing in the second game of the series on Saturday at Dunkin’ Park, taking the series win over UMBC with a 11-2 victory.

Andrew Sears has had a volatile start to his career in Storrs, but the left-hander was solid on Saturday, throwing five innings and striking out nine without allowing a walk, though he did hit two batters and surrendered two runs.

Sears allowed the Retrievers’ first two hits of the night in the first inning, a double and a home run, but the Huskies’ pitching staff was flawless after that, holding their opponents to three hits and allowing just two walks in the contest.

The Huskies’ lineup held up their end of the bargain, with 14 hits in the contest, including two doubles and two home runs. Eight players recorded hits and six had multi-hit efforts in the contest.

After going down 2-0 early, UConn baseball rebounded with a five-run third inning that started off with a single from Matt Garbowski, who would come around and score on a throwing error. Ben Huber followed, ripping an RBI single into left field, and Jake Studley would put the exclamation point on the inning with a three-run moonshot over the left field bleachers.

Dominic Freeberger extended the UConn lead in the fourth inning with a three-run home run, driving in Garbowski and Ryan Smith, to make it 8-2. The Huskies would tack on three more in the seventh inning to bring the score to 11-2.

Game 3:

Although the series was decided on Saturday, UConn didn’t lose focus in the final game of the three-game set, defeating UMBC 11-0 on Sunday to earn the sweep.

Sunday’s contest continued two trends set in the previous two games of the series — rock-solid pitching and consistent offense — to keep the win streak going.

Starter Patrick Sullivan threw five shutout innings, scattering six hits and a walk to earn his team-leading fourth win of the season.

The Huskies had a comfortable lead by the sixth inning, so UConn’s key relievers, Garrett Coe, Devin Kirby and Justin Willis, all threw one scoreless inning a piece, allowing a single hit combined. Zach Fogell put together a quality inning of work in the sixth, striking out three Retrievers.

Seven UConn starters earned a hit, and Freeberger, Broadhurst, Huber and Morton all stayed hot with multi-hit games. Broadhurst continued his scorching weekend, leading the way with a 3-for-3 performance with three RBI, and Freeberger reached base all five times.

UConn will be back in action on Tuesday for a midweek matchup in New York City against Columbia at 3:30 p.m.