The UConn baseball team concluded their eight‐game road trip to California this past weekend with a series against No. 21 UC Santa Barbara. The Huskies (9‐9) struggled to hold late leads throughout the series, as they were swept by the Gauchos.
In the series opener on Friday afternoon, UConn fell 5‐3 to UCSB in the first ever meeting between the two teams. The Huskies carried a 3‐2 lead into the bottom of the ninth before the Gauchos’ Austin Hunt delivered a three‐run walk‐off home run to deliver UCSB a victory. UConn freshman Randy Polonia, who was in the game to close, took the loss.
UCSB jumped out to an early 1‐0 lead in the first inning on a sacrifice fly as UConn starter Anthony Kay found himself in a jam. The Huskies responded in the third with an RBI groundout from Jack Sundberg, which tied the game at one apiece.
The Gauchos jumped ahead again in the seventh inning on an RBI single from Hunt, which sentUConn coach Jim Penders to the bullpen to replace Kay. Kay went 6.2 innings, allowing two earned run on five hits.
The Huskies answered right back in the top of the eighth with a run on a throwing error, and they took the lead in the ninth on a long solo home run by Tyler Gnesda. Gnesda, a junior who is playing his first year in Storrs after transferring from Cypress College, is second on the team with 20 runs batted in.
However, UConn could not seal the deal in the bottom half of the ninth. After a leadoff double prompted Penders to pull Doug Domnarski for Polonia, the Gauchos played a bit of small ball before Hunt ended the game with one powerful swing. The painful loss represented the third time this season that the Huskies have watched their opponent walk off in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Looking to bounce back in the next game on Saturday afternoon, UConn again blew a late lead. After the Huskies took a 6‐5 advantage into the bottom of the eighth inning, the Gauchos scored four runs off the UConn bullpen in the frame to help pick up a 9‐6 victory.
On Saturday, the Huskies struck first with an RBI groundout from Bobby Melley in the top of the first inning. UCSB tied the game at one apiece with a run in the third, and grabbed a 2‐1 lead with another run in the fourth.
UConn tied the game on a RBI single from Joe DeRoche‐Duffin in the sixth inning, and followed it up with three more runs in the seventh. The Huskies went up 3‐2 in that frame on a fielding error before Melley launched a two‐run home run, his fourth shot of the season, to put Penders’ squad up by three.
The Gauchos immediately responded in the bottom of the seventh inning with three runs of their own, chasing UConn starter Tim Cate. Cate received no decision after lasting 6.0 innings, allowing three runs (one earned) on five hits and striking out eight batters.
The Huskies took the lead right back in the top of the eighth on an RBI single from Connor Buckley, but UCSB again answered in the bottom of the frame with four runs off UConn relievers Nico Darras and Patrick Ruotolo. The Gauchos’ Trevor Bettencourt closed out the game in the ninth inning to secure a narrow victory.
In the series finale on Sunday afternoon, UConn’s offense struggled as UCSB finished off a sweep with a 6‐2 victory. With the loss, the Huskies finished their spring break road trip at 3‐5, with no trips West remaining on the 2016 schedule.
UConn struck first on Sunday, as Buckley scored Sundberg with an RBI groundout in the second inning. The lead changed hands in the home half of the inning when the Gauchos’ Josh Adams smashed a two‐run home run.
UCSB built up its lead in the following innings, with a run in the third, a run in the fourth and two unearned runs in the fifth. The Huskies cut the lead to 6‐2 on a Sundberg sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, but they would not get any closer than that.
UConn starter Ronnie Rossomando was tagged with the loss, going 3.1 innings and allowing four runs on four hits. John Russell, CJ Dandeneau, Dan Rajkowski and William Montgomerie all pitched for the Huskies out of the bullpen.
Up next, UConn will return home to face in‐state rival CCSU on Mar. 23. First pitch between UConn and CCSU at J.O. Christian Field is scheduled for 3 p.m.
Tyler Keating is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.