No. 10 UConn baseball earned a dramatic walk-off victory in the opening game of its series against Butler on Friday night, taking the 6-5 victory after 13 innings.
Freshman second baseman Ryan Daniels, deputizing for the injured David Smith, fought off four foul balls in a 3-2 count with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the 13th before letting the 10th pitch of the at-bat fall in the dirt for a walk-off walk.
It was the longest game of the UConn season so far, and the tension in the final at-bats felt like a playoff atmosphere in Elliot Ballpark.
In his return from plantar fasciitis, first baseman Ben Huber didn’t miss a beat, going 3-for-5 with a home run from the three-spot in the lineup. T.C. Simmons also had a solid game, going 2-for-4 with two walks and an RBI.
The two teams traded runs throughout the game; neither pulling more than two runs ahead of the other in the entire game.
Butler went on top in the top of the first inning, scoring on an RBI single from Scott Jones, but Andrew Sears was able to strand runners on first and second to end the inning. UConn responded in the bottom of the inning with a moonshot from Ben Huber in his first at-bat back from injury to tie it up at 1-1.
The Bulldogs scored two more in the top of the third with back-to-back extra-base hits combined with a sacrifice fly, but the Huskies would keep pace with three runs of their own in the bottom half. Huber notched his second hit of the night to reach, then Jake Studley and Luke Broadhurst reached on back-to-back walks before being driven in by Bryan Padilla’s RBI single to make it 4-3. Huber crossed the plate on a Simmons ground out.
Butler took the lead for the third time of the night in the fifth inning with a home run from Jake Defries and a Xavier Carter single, but third baseman Dominic Freeberger had an answer for that, with an RBI double to drive home Korey Morton, who legged out two bases of his own to start the fifth inning.
After that, the team’s bullpens took over. Neither team allowed a run for seven straight innings. Devin Kirby entered the game in the sixth and threw a pair of two-hit frames, setting the stage for one of the most impressive relief performances of the season from Zach Fogell.
To say the left-hander was impressive would be an understatement. Fogell threw 5 1⁄3 scoreless innings, a season-high by a long shot, allowing just a single hit.
UConn (37-11, 12-3 Big East) will be back in action at 2:05 p.m. on Saturday, in an attempt to clinch the series against Butler.