The UConn baseball team exploded for five runs in the ninth inning Tuesday to extend its winning streak to three with a decisive 9-4 victory against Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Ma.
Recently, the Huskies (12-11) have been struggling to score runs, losing five in a row, including a tough loss to Columbia on the road. In addition, the bullpen has been struggling in late innings—which is not a recipe for putting together wins.
Now, following a weekend sweep of Columbia at home that was highlighted by stellar pitching and clutch scoring, UConn followed suit against BC. Sophomore starter Sam Nepiarsky hurled five shutout innings of three hit ball, earning the win in his first collegiate start, and the middle-of-the-order trio of Bobby Melley, Willy Yahn and Joe DeRoche-Duffin each collected two R.B.I.’s.
Both teams started off scoreless in the first two innings until an error by the Eagles set up an R.B.I. chance for Melley in the third. He picked up his 25th R.B.I. of the season, driving in Aaron Hill on a groundout to short to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
Napiarsky would follow with a scoreless bottom frame and a 1-2-3 bottom of the fourth before UConn added to their lead. The Huskies took advantage of a shaky performance by Dan Metzdorf, who relieved BC starter Thomas Lane after giving up a leadoff walk to Jack Sundberg.
Metzdorf hit Bryan Daniello with a pitch, then followed with a wild pitch and another walk before being yanked from the game and replaced with Bobby Skogsbergh. With the bases full of Huskies, Yahn ripped a two-run double into the gap to extend UConn’s lead to 3-0. Duffin would add one more run on a sac fly before the Huskies were retired.
With a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth, head coach Jim Penders went to his bullpen and replaced Napiarsky with freshman reliever C.J. Dandeneau. Dandeneau hurled two 1-2-3 innings to keep BC off the board heading into the bottom of the eighth, extending his scoreless inning streak to nine.
Senior Devin Over came in to replace Dandeneau, and the Eagles began to chip away. With one on and two out, the Eagles loaded the bases after a single and a walk. Freshman Randy Polonia came in to relieve Over, but things got ugly quick after he let up a bases-clearing double that got BC within a run.
Polonia’s struggles have been a trend as of late. On the season, he has given up 11 hits and has six earned runs to his name.
Polonia was able to preserve the Huskies’ 4-3 lead going into the ninth, striking out the next batter he faced.
Looking to get some insurance runs, Keith Krueger drew a leadoff walk in just his second start of the season to get the Huskies going. UConn would get the next two men on and, following a throwing error by BC pitcher John Nicklas, Sundberg singled through the right side to knock in his 11th R.B.I. of the season. After Daniello struck out, the Huskies strung together three straight hits and capitalized on more BC errors to balloon their lead to 8-3. Catcher Zac Susi would add another run to give UConn a six-run lead heading into the bottom frame.
Polonia remained on the mound. It wasn’t the cleanest inning, but it got the job done as he only gave up one run en route to a 9-4 win.
The Huskies are riding a three-game winning streak as they begin conference play on Friday, April 1 with a three-game series against Tulane at J.O. Christian Field. First pitch is slated for 3:00 p.m.
Stephanie Sheehan is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @steph_sheehan.