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No. 9 UConn baseball walks it off in 11 innings over Seton Hall, 3-2

Jake Studley took a low breaking ball past the shortstop into left field to clinch the Huskies’ 10th straight series.

UConn’s David Smith #10 celebrates after scoring the game-winning run vs Seton Hall.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

There was a postseason feel on Saturday afternoon at Elliot Ballpark as No. 9 UConn baseball took a 3-2 win over Seton Hall in 11 innings on Jake Studley’s walk-off single.

He took Ryan Reich’s 64th pitch in relief, a curveball down, past the diving Max Viera at shortstop to bring home David Smith, who had reached base for the fourth time on a walk, and got to second with a stolen base.

Justin Willis, who earned the win, shut down a dangerous threat from Seton Hall in the 10th, as the Pirates got runners on second and third, but he struck out Staus Pokrovsky to end the threat.

Stephen Quigley didn’t have his best stuff, with four free passes on the afternoon, but was able to battle through six innings and give his team a chance to win. He gave up four hits and two runs, as well, with four strikeouts mixed in.

After a clean first frame, Quigley put two runners on via a walk and drew the ire of pitching coach Josh MacDonald, as the pair had a heated, but one-sided, conversation. Will Gale got a ground ball into the gap between shortstop and third base and though Bryan Padilla got to it, he had no play, while Seton Hall took the lead with a productive out.

The first two hitters for the Pirates reached in the third and another walk would load the bases with two outs, but Quigley escaped with a flyout. That would be all that the Pirates could muster against the starter, as he retired 10 of the final 12 he faced, including the flyout, scattering just a pair of singles.

As for the Huskies, Daniel Frontera didn’t let them do anything. David Smith led off the bottom of the first with a walk to reach base for the 35th straight game. He promptly stole second and third and would cross the plate on an errant throw from Staus Pokrovsky behind the plate on Smith’s attempt to take third.

After that, a UConn runner didn’t reach second base until Padilla stole second with two down in the fourth after working a walk. While the Huskies didn’t strike out often, with just five punchouts on Frontera’s ledger, they weren’t able to get solid contact and force the issue to help out Quigley.

A second Padilla walk with two down in the sixth would chase Frontera and in the seventh, the home side got to work, trailing 2-1. Ryan Daniels pinch hit for Matt Garbowski against left-hander Aaron Groller. Daniels wasn’t fazed by the left-on-left matchup and hit a single hard up the middle. That was enough for Seton Hall head coach Rob Sheppard as he came to get his reliever in favor of Jay Allmer to face Korey Morton.

The sacrifice bunt was on, but Daniels was able to take second first, which put him on third with one out once Morton got it down successfully. Smith then laced a 1-0 pitch into the right-center field gap for a double to plate Daniels and re-tie the ballgame.

Devin Kirby, who entered in the seventh to replace Quigley, was ruthless and efficient against the Pirate opposition. He faced 12 batters and he allowed just one hit. He struck out a pair in his 3 13 innings of work and threw 45 pitches in the process, staying out of deep counts.

Ryan Hyde worked a one-out walk in the ninth to turn the lineup over and then Smith nearly went yard with a 3-1 pitch but hooked it foul and the Huskies were unable to walk it off in regulation, settling for extra innings.

UConn (34-11, 10-3 Big East) will close its series with Seton Hall at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. The contest will be broadcast on CW20 in Connecticut.