Baseball: Late inning struggles cost Huskies in opening series

Centerfielder Jack Sundberg scores a run during UConn's 3-1 loss against Memphis last season. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

The UConn baseball team dropped two out of three games to the University of Texas at San Antonio Roadrunners in their first series of the 2016 season this weekend in San Antonio. The Huskies watched the Roadrunners walk off in the ninth inning on both Friday and Saturday before rallying in Sunday afternoon’s game to avoid a sweep.

UConn fell 2-1 in Friday night’s season opener as UTSA walked off on a wild pitch in the ninth inning. Devin Over picked up the loss for the Huskies after two innings of relief, while UTSA reliever Patrick Herbelin was credited with the win after working out of a jam with the game tied in the top of the ninth.

Offense was hard to come by on Friday, as the two teams combined for just six hits. The Huskies’ lone run came on their first hit of the season, as senior outfielder Joe DeRoche-Duffin smashed a pitch over the left field wall in the the second inning. DeRoche-Duffin, who led the team with 11 home runs in 2015, continues to be a reliable source of power for the team this season.

UConn only picked up one more hit over the course of the game, as UTSA starter Chance Kirby helped to shut down the Huskies’ offense. Kirby went 7.1 innings, allowing only one hit and striking out six. Anthony Kay had a similarly strong outing on the mound for UConn, going 6.0 innings and allowing only one earned run on two hits.

Game two on Saturday also came right down to the wire. UConn junior transfer Tyler Gnesda tied the game at 5-5 in the top of the ninth with a two-out single, but again UTSA walked off as Ben Brookover hit a game-winning double with two on in the bottom of the frame.

The Huskies jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning with RBI hits by Aaron Hill and freshman Zac Susi, chasing UTSA starter Karan Patel after 3.2 innings of work. The Roadrunners grabbed the lead back with two runs in the fifth and three runs in the sixth against UConn starter Wills Montgomerie, who allowed five earned runs on seven hits in 5.0 innings.

The Huskies brought themselves even with runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings but couldn’t make it to extra innings for the second straight night. P.J. Poulin picked up the loss for UConn by allowing the game-winning run.

In the series finale on Sunday afternoon, UConn was able to pick up their first win of the season with an eighth-inning rally. Trailing 6-4 entering the penultimate frame, the Huskies used five hits and two errors to push five runs across home plate. Freshman Randy Polonia picked up the save in the ninth to help finish off a 9-6 victory.

Senior captain Bobby Melley was the engine for the UConn offense on Sunday, going 3-for-4 with four RBIs and two runs scored. Alex LeFevre added three hits of his own and leadoff hitter Jack Sundberg scored three runs.

UConn starter Andrew Zapata struggled on the mound, as he allowed five earned runs on six hits over 2.0 innings of work. Freshman Ronnie Rossomando was strong in relief of Zapata, delivering 4.0 innings of one-run ball to help keep the Huskies in striking distance as the game went on. Jack Riley ultimately picked up the win in relief.

With a 1-2 record after the opening series, UConn will now travel to Clarksville, Tenn. to play a trio of neutral games on the campus of Austin Peay State University. The first of those three matchups will be against Missouri State on Feb. 26 at 12:30 p.m.


Tyler Keating is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at tyler.keating@uconn.edu.