On Wednesday afternoon, the UConn Huskies baseball team took on in-state rivals, the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils, in a midweek matchup at home, the second home game of the year for the team. Unfortunately the team didn’t have their best performance as CCSU dominated for much of the afternoon, winning 8-4.
Pitching Struggles Early, Batting Struggles Throughout
Andrew Zapata started on the mound for the Huskies, but did not last long before being replaced by Sam Nepiarsky. Zapata gave up seven hits and seven runs, six of which were earned, until he was taken out after 1.2 IP. Although Nepiarsky didn’t allow any earned runs himself, he couldn’t get the team out of the bases loaded jam Zapata got him in, and three more runs would come through in the second for the Blue Devils. The early struggles put the Huskies in a huge deficit that they just couldn’t come back from.
“We need a better start, that’s the bottom line,” head Coach Jim Penders said after the game. “We need a better start from our starting pitcher. I expect more of Andrew and I know he expects more of himself. He was just leaving a few pitches over the plate and it cost us.”
Later in the game, although the Huskies made an effort to cut the deficit to four, the team just couldn’t string too many hits together. It seemed as though batters were aiming for power more than they were for contact and perhaps that cost the team some run-scoring opportunities.
“You have to take small bites, you’re not going to finish an all-you-can-eat buffet all at once,” said Penders. “We needed to be at the buffet to score that many runs but we tried to gobble it down today and our offense hasn’t looked in-sync in a while [as a result].”
Toppa Hits First Career Home Run, Can’t Fuel Comeback
Freshman John Toppa hit his first career home run, a two-run shot in the bottom of the fourth inning to bring UConn closer in its comeback effort against CCSU. Unfortunately, it did not materialize into anything for the Huskies as they still fell to the Blue Devils.
“[The home run] would’ve felt a little better if we had gotten a win,” said Toppa. “But it definitely felt good. I was kind of hoping that I might light a fire under the offense, since we’d been kind of dead for a while. Other guys in the lineup have picked us up so much like that in the past with big hits and big home runs, so I thought that might spark it a little. It didn’t but it still felt great.”
Having played in 10 games this season and starting seven of those, Toppa has gone .258 for the year and has compiled eight hits and five RBIs. His recent performances might result in a little more playing time and competition for the spot at left field, especially after Wednesday’s effort.
“That spot has kind of been a revolving door and we like to give each guy their chances. Toppa got his chance today for the second game in a row against a left-handed pitcher and made the most of it with some decent at-bats,” said Penders. “[Troy] Stefanski could’ve started in that spot today instead but both guys are good options for us and we’ll try to get them both some playing time until somebody takes hold of the spot.”
Chris Hanna is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.